Assistant Editor, Safety & Health Practitioner

August 7, 2019

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workplace stress

Cigna creates campaign to minimise workplace stress

British employers are encouraged to take a more active role in spotting stress in their employees, as it could help prevent early signs of mental health issues.

UK employees work the longest hours in Europe with an average of 42 hours a week, compared to Holland, Italy, Belgium, France and Sweden who work an average of 39 hours. Longer working hours could also make it harder to balance social life, and balance workload causing an increase of workplace stress.

Cigna, a workplace healthcare company, has constituted a mental health campaign after its research revealed that, 72% of employees are stressed at work and 56% work in an ‘always on’ corporate environment, but only 28% have a wellness programs to support them.

Chief Executive Officer of Cigna Europe, Phil Austin, commented that “we’re living in an ‘always on’ culture, with stress at an all-time high. It’s evident from our research that employers can do more to empower their staff to support each other. Our practical tips help employers and employees spot the signs and encourage a more open culture in addressing mental health issues in the workplace.”

Phil Austin

46% of employees said they can identify symptoms of stress in their colleagues, which included 40% saying that they can identify moodiness in their colleagues, 23% said they can identify fatigue in their colleagues, 21% said they have seen their colleagues cry and 20% said that they have noticed their colleague’s work performance reduce.

With stress being a significant challenge to workplace wellbeing, as 83% of employees said that it impacts the morale and team spirit of the work environment, implementing support for stressed employees is critical for everyone in a work culture.

However, although there is a high percentage of workplace stress, the stigma in admitting it is very evident as many employees believe it will make them weaker, and only 11% have said they have sought medical.

Cigna’s mental health campaign, ‘Put a Face On’, aims to help educate employees on how to spot stress in their colleagues as it can also help identify early signs of mental health issues. It has constructed an alphabetical acronym so that employees can easily memorise it, which is:

  • Antisocial – social withdrawal, such as distancing themselves from colleagues, friends and family.
  • Behaviour – erratic behaviour with extreme highs and lows or strong feelings of anger, often unexplained.
  • Concentration – confused thinking and feelings of disorientation and missed deadlines.
  • Drugs and alcohol abuse – where anxiety may signal substance or alcohol dependency.
  • Emotional and physical impact – extreme sadness, worry or tearfulness, or unexplained aches and pains.

Once being able to identify, the campaign gives suggestions on how employees/employers can support the one being stressed, and has also formatted it in an alphabetical acronym from A-E. This includes:

  • Arrange – the right time and place for a chat and ensure they feel comfortable.
  • Be a friend – reassure and encourage and don’t show signs of surprise or judgement.
  • Conversation – adopt active listening, use eye to eye contact, acknowledge what’s being said.
  • Don’t immediately – suggest solutions, they may welcome advice but may just need to vent.
  • Encourage – them to get help if you’re worried and ensure you have information at hand such as helpline numbers and web links.

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