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How to Have Conversations at Work About Stress

An alarming 79% of British adults commonly experience work-related stress, positioning it as more than just a personal issue; it’s a widespread organisational concern that calls for our attention. The implications are profound, affecting everything from employee turnover to healthcare costs, productivity losses, and more.

Workplace stress lurks as an omnipresent challenge, often underestimated in its impact on mental health and organisational productivity. If we’re grappling with high levels of stress that affect our daily lives and overall well-being, what steps can we take to resolve it? 

“Conversations about stress are important to normalise the topic of mental health and allow people to express how they feel.” 

A key recommendation for stress management is to reach out to other people and disclose that you are feeling stressed. However, the prospect of telling someone that you are struggling can be intimidating or nerve-wracking, particularly in the workplace. 

There are several ways that we can hold conversations about stress at work, reserving moments in our weekly routines to listen or speak to our colleagues. Some methods of doing this include:

  1. Safety moments: During a safety moment, a short presentation draws an audience’s attention to a safety topic, such as stress; the presentation then prompts the audience to discuss and reflect on what they have just learned. Safety moments can be held at strategic times such as the start of the working week or in client meetings and they work for a range of audience sizes.  

  1. 1-2-1s: 1-2-1s provide a space for employees to discuss how they are feeling with line managers or HR. As a meeting with a smaller audience, 1-2-1s benefit from an atmosphere of privacy and some may appreciate having a period of time dedicated to discussing their wellbeing.  

  1. Visual aids: The use of visual aids can be a creative and interactive way to understand how colleagues are feeling. For example, during meetings, colleagues can be asked to relate themselves to an ‘emotional weather’ with sun associated with happiness, wind with feeling rushed, and storminess with frustration. These visual aids help to relax conversations about stress. 


  1. Mental Health First Aiders: Mental Health First Aiders are trained to spot early signs and symptoms of mental ill health such as stress, start supportive conversations, listen non-judgementally to colleagues, and encourage them to access the support they need. Mental Health First Aiders can similarly support managers to gain further knowledge on mental health. 

Conversations about stress are important to normalise the topic of mental health and allow people to express how they feel. However, as a colleague in Vattenfall highlighted, conversations need to then move one step further and resolve feelings of stress by identifying and implementing solutions.

Stress should not be the inevitable cost of doing business, it’s a challenge that can be managed and minimised through thoughtful strategies and inclusive practices.

How do you approach conversations about stress at work? 

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