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International Stress Awareness Week: a week to campaign but a year-long conversation

22 Nov 2019

International Stress Awareness Week took place earlier this month, highlighting a number of issues linked to mental health and stress that I am sure struck a chord with many of you involved in business.

It’s an appropriate follow-on from Mental Health Awareness Week, which takes place in May every year. Back then I wrote about the importance of awareness of mental health at work, and the resources available for management and employees alike.

This sentiment was very much the flavour of International Stress Awareness Week.

Looking back at the week, I was pleased to learn about some of the innovative ways in which businesses are helping employees to reduce stress, as well as the fact that taking care of your mental health is now becoming more normalised.

It’s good to see some household names taking proactive steps against stress at work. German car manufacturer Volkswagen, for instance, has recognised the stress that feeling constantly switched on thanks to smartphones and other technology puts on employees. It has restricted emails so they can only be sent to their workers’ phones from 30 minutes before the start of the working day to 30 minutes after it ends, and not at all at weekends.

Supermarket chain Lidl has employed a similar initiative with a blanket ban on internal email between 6pm and 7am so staff really do get the chance to check out from work. Meanwhile, Microsoft in Japan has recently reported on an experiment they carried out in August to reduce employee stress at work.

Staff were treated to a paid day off every Friday, while face-to-face meetings were restricted to 30 minutes only. Microsoft say that sales increased by 40% during this period, proving that happier, less stressed employees were more productive.

If you’re looking for some practical tips on managing stress at work, the mental health charity Mind has a comprehensive guide to keeping mentally healthy at work.

Some of its excellent suggestions include being scrupulous about taking guilt-free breaks, and “developing end of day habits” such as making a to-do list for the next day to help draw a line under the day’s work.

Of course, like any awareness week, it’s important that the key issues highlighted are kept in mind for the rest of the year. This is so important for anyone in a start up or small business, or in that challenging phase of starting a business.

It’s very easy to prioritise the demands of working life over your own wellbeing, but one thing I’ve learnt is that taking just a short period of time out during each day or week is essential to recharging the batteries and reinvigorating your work.

The takeaway message from International Stress Awareness Week has got to be that your mental wellbeing is an ongoing commitment, so why not turn a week’s awareness into a year-long conversation with your own peace of mind?

Written by Alex Mitchel, Head of the IoD Founder Community
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