HR Manager, Hannah Starkey


Ask twice

Our HR Manager, Hannah Starkey, shares top tips for colleagues and managers to spot and support team mates experiencing stress.

Our HR Manager, Hannah Starkey, shares top tips for colleagues and managers to spot and support team mates experiencing stress.

When you work in a fast-paced, service-providing industry where deadlines, accuracy and fluctuating workloads are commonplace, stress can creep up. This is why it’s so important for business leaders to have layers of processes in place to keep workplace stress at bay, whilst creating a culture where everybody looks out for each other. 

With this in mind, Hannah Starkey, shares her advice on the signs of stress teammates can look out for, how colleagues can support each other, and what managers can do to foster an environment of open communication. 

The signs of stress 

The negative effects of stress can manifest themselves in different ways, depending on the individual, but there are some behaviours commonly associated with excessive stress:

  • A shift in behaviour - including the person becoming more withdrawn, quieter in meetings and stand-ups, or unusually silent on calls or group chats. When they do engage in conversation, they may appear to be more irritable, agitated or restless, or they may struggle to articulate their thoughts.
  • A change in performance - there may be a noticeable decline in their quality of work or productivity, or they may have started working additional hours and show a fixation on making sure their work is perfect.
  • Physical symptoms - the person may have started mentioning headaches or aches in their body, may appear to be more tired, could be eating more or less than usual, or have times where they become visibly upset. These symptoms may even result in an increase in their sickness absence.

How should we reach out to someone at work who may be experiencing excessive stress?

The first step in supporting someone who may be struggling due to excessive stress is communication.

  • Don’t wait to find the perfect moment. It can be tempting to wait until you see each other in person, but as we continue to work in a remote or hybrid way, you may not know when you’ll next see your colleague or team member. If your main form of communication is Teams, check in with them there.
  • Ask twice. People often say that they’re fine when they’re not, so asking twice is an important way of starting conversations about mental health. Sometimes we feel uncomfortable opening up if someone asks “How are you?” because we think they’re just being polite.
  • Remember that we all have different levels of resilience. If someone opens up to you about feeling stressed, don’t trivialise how they’re feeling just because you don’t think that you’d feel the same if you were in their situation. We all cope with pressure differently, some people thrive from it, while others struggle to cope. Either way, their feelings are still valid.

How can employers support an employee who is struggling with stress?

This will very much depend on what is causing the stress, and that is why good communication is so important so that you can talk it through and pinpoint that together. At Propel Tech, some of our managers are trained in coaching skills, which is particularly useful in these situations.

Here are just a few things you can do as an employer or manager, to support your team’s stress resilience:

  • Promote a culture of open communication. Foster an environment where employees feel comfortable raising their concerns and speaking up if they feel that their workload is unmanageable. Having regular one-to-ones is a great way to create a space for them to do this.
  • Be clear on your expectations and theirs. Get to know each person’s preferences and, where possible, help them to work in their preferred way. Some employees will be more comfortable having clear processes to follow, whilst others will prefer the autonomy of deciding how to complete the work themselves. 
  • Provide resources to help people build coping strategies. At Propel Tech we provide free membership to a mindfulness app. We also provide access to discounted gym memberships, as exercise is also great for mental wellbeing. Sleep too can play an important role in our ability to manage stress, which is why we operate flexible start and finish times around core business hours.

Discover more about our values and what it’s like to work at Propel Tech here.

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