Let’s take workplace stress seriously

The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the skies are blue, but instead of lazing in a hammock or going for a swim, you’re back at work – or maybe you didn’t get a break in the first place.

Many Kiwis are already feeling the effects of the ‘back-to-work blues’ and finding their stress-levels are rising.

That’s why the Mental Health Foundation is calling for New Zealand to make 2019 the year we take workplace stress seriously, and work together to address it.

To support this, the MHF has a new, free resource: Minimising and managing workplace stress.

A Mental Health Foundation survey found high workloads, poor work/life balance and stressful work are the top three causes of poor mental health at work.

Hence, MHF chief executive Shaun Robinson says improving mental health in the workplace is critically important.

“How we feel at work impacts not just our ability to work well, but our relationships with our colleagues, whanau, friends and communities.

“When our mental health is impacted by stress at work, the effects ripple out into our home and whanau lives and prevent us from flourishing.”

Shaun says the resource is designed to help workplaces tackle stress head-on, and includes information about how work impacts stress, how stress affects individuals and how we can work to minimise and manage stress.

“Not all stress is bad,” says Shaun. “It’s a normal and healthy response that motivates us to overcome challenges, focuses our energy and helps to improve performance.

“Good stress doesn’t last for long and can feel exciting. Most importantly, good stress feels manageable.”

However, he says too many New Zealanders are experiencing high levels of distress, or bad stress.

“Bad stress causes anxiety and usually decreases our ability to perform well in our jobs. It feels horrible, and we feel that we can’t cope with it or overcome it.”

While a combination of personal and professional circumstances usually play a role in causing stress, workplaces are critical to helping to minimise and manage stress.

“Our resource is designed to encourage workplaces and their people to think of stress as a challenge we can resolve together,” says Shaun.

“It’s not just a matter of individuals taking responsibility to manage stress – although that is important – workplaces also need to step up and take proactive steps to support their people and keep them safe from the harmful effects of stress.”

Minimising and managing workplace stress is part of MHF’s suite of Working Well resources, which provide organisations with tools to create cultures that enhance and protect people’s mental health.

Shaun says good mental health leads to better engagement, reduced absenteeism and higher productivity, while also improving wellbeing, morale and job satisfaction.

Find the new guide at: www.mentalhealth.org.nz/home/our-work/category/44/working-well-guide-and-resources

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