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National Stress Month: how to support your colleagues

We often talk about how to manage personal stress, but how can we support our colleagues battling stress in the workplace? 

To mark National Stress Month, we thought we’d discuss the best ways to help your colleagues who are showing signs of stress and anxiety. 

Carry on reading to find out more and help make your workplace a more positive environment for everyone. 

How can I tell if my colleague is stressed? 

There are a number of behavioural changes to look out for when it comes to recognising stress. 

For example, if your colleague is feeling under pressure at work they might:

  • Be more snappy than usual
  • Appear withdrawn in meetings and casual conversations 
  • Have difficulty making decisions 
  • Seem fidgety or restless 
  • Generally more emotional

How can I show my support?

  • Strike up a conversation 

This might be slightly challenging at first, especially if you don’t know the individual very well or if they’ve been bad-tempered recently. However, giving someone the opportunity to share what’s on their mind can make a world of difference. Equally, if they don’t feel comfortable talking then it is important to respect that. As long as you are sensitive in your approach then you can’t go wrong – plus, you’ll be surprised how much just one conversation can help boost someone’s mood. 

  • Alert management 

You should only do this if you think one of your colleagues is at serious risk to themselves, or if you notice that they are not getting any help. Talk to someone senior in confidence so they can help provide the necessary support. 

  • Find out what the issue is 

We’re not suggesting you stick your nose in everyone’s business but in some situations, it might be useful to ask your colleague what is bothering them. Stress can be caused by a number of situations – some of which may be outside of work and therefore out of your control. However, if the issue is work-related then you might be able to offer practical solutions. In any case, your colleague will appreciate having a workplace ally that they can lean on in stressful times (and we’re sure they’ll return the favour!). 

  • Don’t get overly involved 

While it’s kind to lend an ear and offer advice, it’s important to set boundaries. For example, if you find yourself getting overwhelmed or even consumed by the other person’s problems then it’s time to step back. There’s only so much you can help someone, and you need to protect your energy and mental health at the end of the day. 

  • Be empathetic

Overall, the best thing you can do to support your colleagues is to be empathetic. That means being an active listener and validating their experiences and feelings. Start by verbalising your concerns e.g. “I’ve noticed you’ve not quite been yourself lately, is everything ok?”. Given they want to talk, you can then help make them feel heard and appreciated. 

Work remotely? Drop your colleague a message or invite them for a virtual coffee catch-up. 

Kindness is key!

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