Organisations must rethink stress and pressure

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HR magazine and CABA's roundtable event on building a holistic wellbeing strategy explored the energising element of challenge

Organisations need to rethink their attitudes towards stress and pressure at work and stop seeing it as a uniformly negative thing, according to Lucy Whitehall, wellbeing consultant at chartered accountants' wellbeing charity CABA.

“We hear in the media about ‘happyology,' how everybody should be happy and we should be aiming for this nirvana of happiness,” she said, speaking at HR magazine and CABA's roundtable event 'Building a holistic wellbeing strategy.' “But the reality, for a lot of people, is that they thrive under pressure.

“We are told that negative emotions are bad, that we should be resisting them and always trying to get ourselves away from sources of pressure or stress,” she added. “The actual evidence is showing that there are a lot of people who find pressure really energising, and they can perform at their best when experiencing it. As long as they are equipped with the skills to manage that, they can thrive and flourish in that environment.”

Sally Hemming, associate director of talent at EY, agreed that a controlled amount of pressure can help employees do good work. “We know our people are at their best under pressure and at their best when they are slightly on the edge of their natural comfort zone,” she said. “We want them to know they are capable of doing extraordinary things, but only when they are in a situation in which they are [out of their comfort zone].

“If they look after themselves, which is what we help them to do, they can do some of their best work.”

Darren Minshall, chief talent officer at Havas Media Group, said his business helps employees manage stress through a programme which considers the employees’ personal lives and not just their work.

“We know that your life is filled with peaks and troughs, and they can be affected by things such as marriages, bereavements, or other life events,” he said. “Our personal coaching doesn’t focus on just work because it could be that their work life is just fine, but they could be in a difficult personal relationship which is causing an impact. We try to look at this wider perspective, and help them to draw on the benefits they need.”

The roundtable also covered a range of other wellbeing topics, including financial wellbeing, the importance of senior role models, and the organisational element of wellbeing. Further coverage of the event will be included in the June edition of HR magazine.

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