April is National Stress Awareness Month and it’s an important time to recognise the widespread impact of stress on our lives, especially at work. Whatever the source, it’s essential to acknowledge and address stress in order to mitigate its negative effects. In this article, Judith Quin, an award-winning vocal-confidence coach, who launched her business, Your Whole Voice, seven years ago comments on possible sources of employee stress and offers tips to employers on how to manage it.
“We’re all much more aware of our stress levels nowadays. But stress is still a major problem for many of us. Statistics published by the Health and Safety Executive in 2022 showed that nearly a million (914,000) working people are suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety.
Businesses are supporting their employees with a wide range of well-being initiatives. But there’s a risk of taking a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. Some people don’t want to or aren’t able to achieve their best mental health through exercise or mindfulness apps, for instance. And mental-health first aiders can only go so far.
Some employees might even feel that their employer is engaging in the phenomenon of ‘wellbeing washing’ − where companies claim to be supporting the mental health of their people, while not addressing the key issues that are causing the mental-health problems within their workforce.
So, how can well-meaning companies committed to reducing stress in the workforce make a positive difference?
An often-overlooked cause of stress
There’s a specific cause of stress in the workplace that is often overlooked. Many people are stressed and anxious about speaking at work. That can include public speaking, but it covers so many other situations where people have to speak – making presentations, contributing to team meetings, talking to a group on a Teams call, making phone calls to clients, and any conversation they perceive as challenging or difficult (like asking for a pay rise or promotion) to name just a few.
The impact this can have on their mental health cannot be underestimated. People will take sick leave rather than speak up in public. Some will even leave their jobs. It’s not just an impact on their mental health that’s a concern here, fear of speaking at work can seriously damage some people’s career prospects. After all, if they don’t speak up and put their points across, their manager could get the impression that they’re not engaged with their job or the company – or worse still that they don’t have the competence to do their job.
That’s why I urge companies to be aware of this cause of stress and to help people to get the support they need, to learn how to speak up effectively and without fear. Speaking might be considered a ‘soft’ skill, but for many people, and at all levels of the business, it can be incredibly hard.
It doesn’t take much to get people speaking confidently, but it makes a huge difference to their lives, careers – and potentially to the bottom line of the company they work for.”
Judith Quin is an award-winning vocal-confidence coach, who launched her business, Your Whole Voice, seven years ago. Since then she has worked with a number of businesses and individuals to help people reduce stress by improving their vocal confidence.