February 2020 HEALTH & WELLBEING

Supporting staff members dealing with stress

Mental health has a critical impact on economic development and wellbeing. Mental health issues have been shown to increase employee absenteeism, lower rates of productivity and increase costs. Stress can contribute to a wide-range of physical illnesses and can also lead to burnout, affecting staff members’ ability to contribute meaningfully in both their personal and professional lives. Annual global costs of mental health problems are estimated at 2.5 trillion dollars and expected to rise to 6 trillion dollars by 2030.
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Cigna’s 2019 360° Wellbeing Survey found that 87% of workers around the world are stressed and 12% feel their stress is unmanageable. However, the stigma surrounding mental health and expression of negative emotions such as stress sometimes prevents people from seeking help, out of fear of being judged or dismissed. This can lead to a vicious cycle.


Everyone displays stress in a different way, but some common behaviours help identify stress. Look for these signs of job stress:

  • Frequent headaches
  • Upset stomach
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Problems concentrating
  • Short temper
  • Anxiety
  • Apathy
  • Mood swings
  • Restlessness
  • Job dissatisfaction and low morale

If a staff member shows these signs, it doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is on the way to a burnout. However, it does mean they could use some extra support. Approaching and supporting someone who is going through a stressful time can help them begin to relieve some of the stress, and perhaps even encourage them to seek professional help. It also helps foster stronger work relationships.


Mental health issues are best treated in an early stage. If you're under the impression a colleague is stressed, find an opportunity to talk to them privately and ask them how they're doing. They might not be willing to talk in that moment, but let them know you're available whenever they feel ready.

When speaking with someone dealing with chronic stress, it’s important to be compassionate and to listen without judgement. Talking about mental health can be difficult for some people, so acknowledge that vulnerability. Encourage them to talk about their experience and their feelings by asking open questions.

Most importantly, remove the stigma of mental health care and let the employee know which resources and tools are at their disposal. It’s essential organisations pay close attention to the health and wellbeing of their staff members and create an environment where people can discuss mental health issues and treatment.


Besides creating an environment that encourages open conversations, here are 10 other ways employers can show mental health support:

  1. Flexible working hours
  2. Special paid leave
  3. Relaxation rooms
  4. Shorter working week
  5. Time off for personal interests
  6. Employer-sponsored physical activities
  7. Flexibility to work from home
  8. Employer-sponsored activities to manage mental health
  9. Provide access to an Employee Assistance Programme
  10. Enforce “Do not disturb” during evenings, weekends and holidays

We work with many of our clients to offer wellbeing programmes to support their staff members and their family members in improving their health. In addition to encouraging a culture of health, these programmes are designed to reduce health care costs for both staff members and the organisation.


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