Research commissioned by Mind, the UK’s leading mental health charity, found that work is the most stressful factor in people’s lives. More than one in three said their work life was either very or quite stressful.

Work-related stress experienced over a long period of time can lead to physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion, which is commonly known as burnout.

April is Stress Awareness Month, and this year’s campaign focuses on how even the smallest steps towards stress reduction can yield improvements in mental health. It is critical to be aware of the warning signs and make manageable adjustments as soon as you spot them.

5 steps to manage and prevent burnout

  1. Break things down: if your workload starts to feel overwhelming, it can often help to break down big jobs into more manageable tasks so you can achieve a series of specific goals.
  2. Learn to delegate: knowing what and when to delegate is often essential to prevent burnout.
  3. Take regular breaks and try to limit working after hours: if you’re very busy at work, it can be tempting to skip lunch or work late, but if this becomes a regular occurrence, you increase the risk of burnout.
  4. Set boundaries: taking on too many commitments can quickly lead to feeling overwhelmed, so set limits on the time you can give to others to prevent burnout proactively.
  5. Embrace self-care: when you’re stressed, it’s easy to fall into bad habits and stop looking after yourself. Exercising regularly, eating healthily, and prioritising sleep are all important for reducing mood swings, improving focus, and boosting your sense of well-being so you can cope with work-related stress.

How employers can support their employees

Work-related stress can significantly impact an employee’s performance and relationships with colleagues. It’s also a significant cause of long-term absenteeism.

“Burnout is an issue we’re increasingly seeing, and over the last 12 months, we’ve seen several employees signed off with burnout due to the chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed,” Dr Caroline Wall explains.

Ideally, employers should approach work-related stress proactively and focus on prevention and early intervention rather than responding to a situation that has affected performance or resulted in short- or long-term absence.

Approaches can include:

  • Flexible working options
  • Stress risk assessments
  • Reduce or eliminate sources of stress based on these assessments
  • Training for line managers
  • Stress management training for the whole workforce
  • Increase support during periods of change or uncertainty

For more advice on how occupational health can help prevent and manage work-related stress, call +44 (0)20 4580 1152 to arrange a discussion with one of our team.

We’re excited to announce that GP London W1’s Dr Caroline Wall has recently qualified in Occupational Health Medicine, gaining her post-graduate diploma (DipOccMed).

“About a third of the work that we do at GP London W1 is Occupational Health, so when I joined the practice, the next step was to undertake my post-graduate training in this field so I could work alongside Fiona and Justine in this area,” Caroline explains.

“However, I’ve always been interested in the concept that people are better in work than out. In my experience as an NHS GP, I saw many patients on long-term sick leave, and often, you would see a physical and mental decline in their health when they weren’t working.

“If you look at it from the other side, if you are a company whose staff is happy and fulfilled at work, that has huge benefits in reduced turnover and productivity.”

Studying for an Occupational Health Medicine diploma

“Initially, there was a two-week training course – encompassing 95 lectures– done remotely. Followed by a written exam, and then you must prepare a portfolio that is split into two parts.

“The first was a clinical case of lower back pain. One of Justine’s patients allowed me to observe, and I wrote up the case. Often it is simple suggestions, and it might seem obvious that someone with back pain should be allowed regular movement breaks so they aren’t sitting for long periods, but often you need a structured report to enable it to happen.

“The second part was a site visit of the shoe factory Crockett & Jones in Northamptonshire. This was more focused on the health, safety and welfare aspect of Occupational Health, and I had to demonstrate that I could carry out a workplace visit and assess all the risks.

“Once I submitted the portfolio, there was a viva where I was grilled on those two cases.

“I really enjoyed it, but it’s quite daunting returning to study after a break now that I’m older, my brain is a bit slower, and I have a young family. Thankfully all behind me now!”

Next steps

“I am looking forward to the challenge of our Occupational Health work. We are based on Harley Street in Central London, so we work with companies across various industries, so the work is always varied.

“Working alongside such experienced Occupational Health practitioners as Justine and Fiona though means I always have a wealth of knowledge and support on hand.”

To find out more about our Occupational Health Services, please call +44 (0)20 4580 1152 to speak to one of the team.