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This month (April) is Stress Awareness Month in the UK; an annual event designed to raise awareness of the causes of stress in the modern world.

Held every April since 1992, the UK-wide initiative is organised by the Stress Management Society, with the aim of lifting the stigma surrounding stress, both at home and at work.

The theme for this year’s Stress Awareness Month is ‘Community’. In the wake of the pandemic, which is widely reported to have impacted people’s mental health and wellbeing, it’s more important than ever for everyone to feel a sense of belonging and connection with others, whether at home or in the office.

As a leading drug and alcohol testing laboratory working with businesses large and small on their substance misuse policies and testing programmes, we have seen first-hand how stress can impact people from every walk of life, across a range of industries and sectors.

In many instances, the effects of stress on a person’s mental wellbeing can be a trigger for substance abuse, with individuals mistakenly seeing alcohol or drug use as a means of escape or relaxation before, during or after a stressful workday.

In this blog, we’re giving you guidance on how to spot the signs of workplace stress, so that you can better support employees and/or colleagues who may be struggling, while also mitigating substance abuse.

Returning to the workplace

Nationwide lockdowns mean that many people struggling with workplace stress have been left to their own devices, with little support available during these extraordinary times.

However, with staff returning to the office (and some continuing to work from home), it’s more important than ever to look out for one another’s mental wellbeing and reduce the likelihood of individuals turning to illicit substances as a coping mechanism.

A study carried out by the Stress Management Society in partnership with Huawei AppGallery and Headspace highlights the impact that the pandemic has had on our collective feelings of stress.  

The survey of 2,000 British adults found that 65 per cent felt more stressed than ever before since Covid-19 restrictions began in March 2020.

Worse still, The Global Burnout Study published in January 2022, which included 3,000 participants from 30 countries, found that:

  • Burnout has increased by over 5 per cent in the past 12 months
  • 40 per cent of people cited burnout as the reason they left their job in 2021

Spotting the signs of workplace stress

According to the CIPD, the main causes of stress at work (2021) include workload and management style, as well as Covid-19 specific factors such as new workplace demands/challenges and poor work-life balance because of homeworking.

However, by learning to spot the signs of workplace stress, and implementing changes to support employees, businesses can lessen the risks associated with a stressed-out workforce including increased sickness absence, reduced productivity and drug & alcohol dependency.  

In turn, by implementing effective health and wellbeing programmes incorporating drug and alcohol awareness training and routine testing for illicit substances, businesses can create a more open culture where individuals are encouraged to speak up about stress and its impact on mental and physical wellbeing.

Here are just a few tell-tale signs that a colleague could be struggling with work-related stress:

  • Increasingly accident prone
  • Short-tempered/increased conflict with colleagues or line managers
  • Significant weight gain/loss
  • Extroverted but have become withdrawn
  • Increased sickness absence
  • Low productivity and efficiency

It’s important to note that some of the signs above (e.g. increased sickness absence and low productivity) can also indicate a problem with drug or alcohol misuse. 

By creating an open culture, employers can combat the negative impact of a stressful work environment and support individuals when they need it.

Tackling stress and preventing substance abuse

Whatever the cause, stress can have a profound effect on people’s mental and physical health, especially in the workplace where there may be additional pressures to contend with.

A very real consequence is that some individuals turn to illicit substances to alleviate stress. This dependency can have serious repercussions, especially for those working in safety-critical industries.

With effective training, you can learn to spot the signs of stress, and reduce the likelihood of drug or alcohol misuse, creating a happier, healthier working environment for everyone.

AlphaBiolabs works with businesses in a range of sectors, providing comprehensive Drug and Alcohol Awareness Training that has been designed to be informative, engaging, and interactive, for maximum impact.

We can also work with you to create a substance misuse policy that meets the needs of your business, as well as reviewing existing policies.

In addition, we provide an extensive range of drug and alcohol testing services and solutions, whether you’re looking to implement a programme of random testing, or simply want to test where you have cause to believe someone has been abusing alcohol or drugs.

By tackling this issue head on, you can demonstrate your commitment to being a responsible employer, with staff wellbeing at the heart of everything you do.

For more information on our workplace testing services and solutions, or to request a quote, call our Customer Services team today on 0333 600 1300 or email workplace@alphabiolabs.com.