Minimising stress at work with smart working practices

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Stress at work is a major concern for organisations.

Defined as “The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them at work” by the HSE, stress at work was reported to account for 37% of all work-related ill health cases and 45% of all working days lost due to ill health in 2015/16.

Furthermore, CIPD reports that the average employee is absent 6.3 days per year due to stress, which costs the UK economy £6.5bn per year.

Stress at work has a phenomenal impact on employee performance and productivity as well as on business financial performance and overall results. So, it comes as no surprise that many organisations are now prioritising minimising stress at work. In 2013, two-thirds of companies reported plans to increase support for health and wellbeing policies and this has risen to nearly 90% according to a 2015/16 survey by the same organisation.

Minimising stress at work is a multi-faceted issue, with many companies still finding themselves reacting to instances when employees are diagnosed with stress rather than taking proactive action to put practices and processes in place to prevent, reduce or limit workplace stress happening in the first place.

We firmly believe that adopting smart working practices is an effective way of minimising stress at work.

Smart working practices is defined by the CIPD as an approach to working that focuses on output rather than input. It relates to every aspect of the organisation from culture and working practices to the physical office and the technology used. Smart working is based on the principle that an employee doesn’t have to physically be in the office to be productive and to deliver results.

Here, we highlight three ways that organisations can prevent or limit stress at work by adopting smart working practices.

Empower employees with a trust-based culture

Smart working practices empowers employees to take control over their working day, and manage when, where and how they deliver in their roles. Very often this means a complete organisational cultural evolution but when wholeheartedly adopted throughout the entire business the results can lead to many positive results, including reduced stress and improved health and wellbeing outcomes, which in turn have a positive impact on overall business performance.

Healthy physical environments and ergonomic office design

A key aspect of smart working practices is the physical office environment. Providing varied work settings that enable employees to complete the task at hand – often referred to as activity-based working – is important, as is ensuring that those work settings are optimised for employee wellbeing. Activity-based working environments that incorporate varied working spaces such as collaboration areas and zones, different sized and styles of meeting spaces, varying workstation and desk options etc., encourage employees to move and be active throughout the day.

Incorporating furniture such as standing desks, sit-stand desks and standing tables for meetings are further ways that promote employee movement and wellbeing.

This extends to ensuring that the technology used both in the office and when working remotely enables efficiency and connectivity. There’s nothing more stressful than not being able to do the job at hand due to the technology provided not working.

Promoting wellness every day

Many organisations are reaping the benefits of encouraging wellness every day. From bringing the outside in through biophilic design, which cleverly places the outside environment within the office through living walls and plantscapes, to providing and encouraging access to the outdoors throughout the day.

Organisations are also encouraging relaxation and wellbeing during the working day with the provision of wellness programmes, which may include all types of wellness activities such as lunchtime exercise, at-desk massages, meditation, and wellbeing advice.

There’s no doubt about it, companies who choose to invest in minimising stress at work are seeing the rewards. As workplace design and smart working consultants, we can work with you on your journey to reduce stress at work and provide a better and healthier environment for your employees.

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