Helping your people handle stress outside work

Human Resources 1st May 2024

How To Support Your Staff’s Wellbeing Through Exams and Other External Pressures

We’ve all known someone like Sarah. She’s a star employee, usually on top of everything, helpful, supportive and great to be around; but at the moment she’s not herself. Sarah’s eldest child is going through exams and the whole family is feeling the pressure, because that’s what often happens isn’t it. Pressures at home don’t stay there, we bring them into work and they affect everything we do – often impacting those around us too.

It’s not just exams either, it might be family illness or bereavement, a partner’s job stress, financial worries or relationship breakdown. Work isn’t the only thing your team have to think about, so let’s explore how external pressures like exams impact your people, and what you can do to support your staff wellbeing.

External Pressures and Their Impact

Life happens. From family challenges to accidents and emergencies, external pressures can affect us all. Supporting your staff wellbeing will help you get the best out of your people which is beneficial to everyone.

We know, for example, that when your employees are struggling with stress at home, they might become sleep-deprived, not able to rest properly with too many things on their mind. Similarly, when suffering with stress, those in your team might become anxious, worrying about their situation and unsure what can be done. Even when the cause of anxiety is outside an individual’s control, we know this doesn’t make it easier to cope with.

These external pressures might also result in individuals having to juggle multiple commitments; balancing work deadlines with someone else’s schedule adds extra pressures and can quickly become a recipe for burnout.

What to look out for

You might see these factors manifest in various ways, including:

  • Reduced productivity and missed deadlines
    Tiredness and increased stress can mean that members of your team aren’t able to perform at their usual level, resulting in them being less productive and failing to perform as they usually would.
  • Increased absenteeism or presenteeism
    Perhaps you’ll see individuals take time off unexpectedly or demonstrate presenteeism – being physically present but mentally somewhere else. Again, with external pressures meaning their mind is elsewhere, you’re likely to find their focus isn’t at work.
  • Lower morale and engagement
    Similarly, and as our story about Sarah identified, these pressures from home can often result in lower morale and engagement within the office. Those who would usually be supportive and helpful are so wrapped up in their own concerns they show less concern of what’s going on around them.
  • More errors and mistakes
    Again, these external pressures are likely to pull away focus from work and we often find that people make more mistakes and errors when stressed than we would usually see.

If you see employees showing such signs of stress or anxiety, particularly when it’s unusual for them to behave in these ways, consider what kind of support you might be able to provide.

Supporting employee wellbeing initiatives

Fortunately, there are things you can do to show your team you care and help manage employee stress:

  • Consider offering flexible working arrangements
    For example, you might allow employees with children taking exams the option to work from home occasionally, or to adjust their schedules to accommodate changes to their routine. This might allow them to support study time or to be available on particularly stressful days. Allowing temporary arrangements like this would give individuals the chance to pick children up from exams but catch up on work outside their usual hours.
  • Promote open communication
    Encourage your employees to discuss the situation causing them concern, giving them a safe space to express their needs. People won’t expect you to help them solve whatever is troubling them, but allowing them to talk about their concerns can really help ease stress.
  • Recognize and celebrate achievements
    A simple acknowledgement of their efforts, both professional and personal, can go a long way to raise morale and engagement. It can also open an opportunity to talk and show your support.
  • Offer mental health resources
    Supporting your staff’s wellbeing is vital. By providing access to online resources, employee assistance programs (EAPs), or meditation apps, you can help your staff manage their stress.
  • Lead by example
    It’s important that those in prominent positions in the company encourage healthy work-life boundaries and avoid presenteeism themselves. Consider your work-life balance, not only the reality of how you manage your time, but also how this looks to everyone around you.

Supporting your staff wellbeing

By prioritising employee wellbeing, you’re not just doing the right thing, you’re also investing in a happier, more productive workforce. A supportive work environment can make a world of difference during stressful times. Imagine the difference it would make to Sarah, to be told how much she’s valued and given a chance to share her concerns. Being given the opportunity to flex her hours for a few afternoons will provide benefit to both Sarah and her team, ensuring everyone is able to focus on work when they need to because they can focus on family too.

Does anyone in your team need help managing external pressures? We offer a range of HR consultancy services to help you create a positive work environment that supports your employee wellbeing. Get in touch for a free consultation and honest, straightforward advice on how to support your people.

It’s our pleasure to keep our clients happy

  • Zinc
  • Growth Deck
  • Billing Finance
  • Shoosmiths
  • PBC
  • hdn
  • Millers Consultancy
  • Pyke Smith Cutler
  • LMH
  • Baker Taylor