10/10/2016 8:00 AM AEDT

Tips On How To Reduce Stress And Boost Workplace Wellbeing

Expert advice to boost morale and productivity.

Caiaimage/Chris Ryan
Resilience expert Stuart Taylor says 80 percent of workers believe their workplace is high stress.

With more than 80 percent of workers assessing their workplace as high stress, employee wellbeing programs are on the rise -- but a resilience expert has warned that some do more harm than good.

CEO of The Resilience Institute (Australia) Stuart Taylor said the Institute's study of 16,261 workers across 250 organisations showed more than 12,500 regarded their working environment as one of high stress, which contributed to absenteeism and reduced productivity.

The Building Resilience white paper also showed employees surveyed also suffered from worry (31 percent), chronic stress symptoms (23 percent) and distress (36 percent).

Taylor said Mental Health Week, from October 9 to 15, was the perfect time to implement or reassess wellbeing programs that enabled employees to adopt learned practices into their daily routines.

The Resilience Institute
Stuart Taylor helps employers implement worthwhile and relevant workplace wellbeing programs.

"If you've sent your staff to a resilience course and (while) there, they've learnt to meditate and identified this as a key resilience practice for them, they need to have the time and understanding to build this practice into their day," he told The Huffington Post Australia.

"If they return to their desk and find that there is no time to meditate -- you've set them up to fail."

What contributes to job stress?

  • Working long hours or overtime, working through breaks or taking work home.
  • Time pressure, working too hard or too fast, or unrealistic targets.
  • Work that's monotonous and dull, or which doesn't use your range of skills or previous training.
  • Roles where you have low levels of control or inadequate support from supervisors and/or co-workers.
  • Job insecurity.
  • A lack of role clarity or poor communication
  • Conflict with colleagues or managers.
  • Bullying.
  • Discrimination -- whether based on gender, ethnicity, race or sexuality.

Taylor said that effective, wellbeing initiatives for staff need to coincide with leadership training and the transformation of workplace culture.

"The best way to facilitate cultural change is to have senior leaders operating with high levels of consciousness, modelling resilient practices and leading by example," Taylor said.

"Task-oriented leadership styles need to be balanced with other empathy-based and compassion-based leadership styles.

"Compassionate leaders create a calm culture such as not breeding fear through punishment of performance gaps."

And well implemented wellbeing programs do have a positive impact; an Australian Government Comcare report showed that well managed employee health and wellbeing programs increased the percentage of engaged employees from 7 to 55 percent.

The Building Resilience white paper showed that well devised workplace resilience programs resulted in workers experiencing a 35 percent reduction in insomnia; 39 percent reduction in worry; 24 percent increase in decisiveness and 29 percent increase in joy.

Getty Images/iStockphoto
Workplace wellbeing begins with compassionate bosses who create a calm culture.

Taylor, who regularly helps devise wellbeing programs for large and small workplaces, believes three tiers should be considered when devising wellbeing programs:

Primary: Focussing on the prevention of illness in the workplace, and creating an environment where staff can thrive. Areas include recruitment procedures, meetings policy, leadership style and organisational values.

Secondary: Equipping leaders and staff with the skills and tools to deal with intensity within the workplace environment.

Tertiary: A reactive measure to minimise the effects of stress-related problems if they occur. This is a model for recovery and can involve counselling or other employee assistance programs.

Developed by the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance and beyondblue, Heads Up also has a range of online tools, initiatives and training packages to help employers to create mentally healthy workplaces, and devise meaningful wellbeing programs.

Tips to minimise stress at work include:

  • Take your annual leave each year and make sure you have a proper break from work.
  • Get out of the workplace during lunch – even if it's just for a 10 minute walk. You'll feel refreshed and more productive in the afternoon.
  • Try scheduling meetings during core work hours, not your personal time.
  • Restrict your overtime hours and speak to your manager if demands are unreasonable.
  • If you frequently work late, try leaving on time at least a couple of times a week.
  • Avoid checking your email or answering work calls out of hours.