We can all be prone to stress. It’s in our nature. Some people manage it better than others, but at the end of the day, no one is immune.

April is, among many things, National Stress Awareness month. Here at Hitec Lift Trucks, we wanted to take a little time to look at how stress in the workforce can cause problems in your operations and why your employee’s welfare is vital to the every day running of your business.

If you do notice signs of stress in yourself or your employees, please consider mental health charity Mind. They have fantastic resources and experienced staff who can give expert advice.

How Stress Can Affect Your Operations

Stress; an unspoken issue?

Did you know that more than 11 million working days are lost each year due to stress and mental health related issues? Not only can this cost businesses, but it also shows the impact that severe stress can have on employees. But many still don’t take time away, why?

Admitting stress or mental health struggles is still stigma – and is growing even more so year on year. For those who choose to (or feel they have to) work through stress, it can become even more harmful to them.

When working in industries that require high levels of concentration, such as manufacturing, logistics, construction and any others that include the operation of machinery on a daily basis, stress could potentially be harmful or at an extreme, fatal.

Let’s take a closer look at the impact stress can have on your workforce:

Fatigue

One of the most common impacts of stress is sleep deprivation. In a study conducted by Perkbox, a company that focuses on the importance of company culture, it was revealed that 65% of people interviewed revealed they had lost sleep due to stress.

Fatigue can kill – you often see signs placed along roads and motorways warning drivers to take a break. But what about in the workplace? For a forklift operator, its vital to be alert at all times. Not only could stock, machinery, racking and even buildings themselves be damaged by a wrong move, but pedestrians are at an even higher threat.

If an operator is tired, their concentration can lapse and their judgement can become blurry. They may think that they’re fine – their experience as an operator can outweigh common sense – but it only takes a small misstep to result in expensive damage and potentially life changing injuries.

Lapsed Concentration

Whilst fatigue can indeed be a frequent cause of a loss of concentration, it can also be attributed to anxiety or other stress related issues.

Lapsed concentration could also be referred to as absent mindedness or spacing out – when the employee in particular has so much on their mind that they’re thinking away from the job in hand and therefore isn’t focused on the task.

This can easily result in mistakes, forgetting important safety checks, running on autopilot when operating equipment, forgoing of responsibilities, filling out paperwork incorrectly and even damage or harm if they strike stock or pedestrians when in charge of material handling equipment. This can be particularly noticeable in employees who are usually very attentive and a clear sign that they’re not feeling themselves.

Emotional Outbursts

For the most part, a great many of us keep our emotions in check, especially in the workplace where often, the ability to control how you feel can be attributed to how well you can perform in your work.

However, when stress occurs, frustration can become a key symptom. When employees are frustrated, they can also be prone to rash decisions could have costly consequences, such as damage to stock or operating equipment at an unsafe speed. From rushing jobs to snapping at colleagues, there can be many key signs of stress, particularly in notably calm employees.

With 12% of small businesses (those with under 50 employees) suffering near constantly when it comes to stress, additional frustration and conflict can be detrimental to company culture, ultimately affecting and upsetting the entire workforce.

Withdrawal

Sometimes, the opposite of an emotional outburst can occur and those suffering from stress can withdraw from the team, spending more time alone and avoiding group sessions such as meetings and breaks.

Everyone manages stress in different ways and whilst withdrawing may seem more favourable than conflict, it can cause different issues. Withdrawing can cause fracture within a team and a lack of communication – something that is particularly important when it comes to safety in an environment with moving equipment and machinery.

Withdrawal can be a reaction to feeling overwhelmed or depressed. If this is the case, employees may procrastinate when it comes to decision making or taking on tasks, as they don’t feel that they’re good enough or able enough to complete them. Not only could this delay production and lead to confusion further down the line, but it could cause problems within the workforce.

If you notice or hear of any employee isolating themselves, they maybe struggling.

Conclusion

The physical and mental health of your staff is vital. Their wellbeing allows for your business to thrive. Stress can be an overwhelming experience and even now, it’s considered taboo by many to discuss mental health.

Knowing your staff well is key to noticing any changes in behaviour and starting the conversation about stress could mean the difference between employees suffering alone and finding a way to cope.

Remember, if you feel stressed or you know someone who is suffering from stress, please consider Mind. This mental health charity does astounding work with those who may be feeling overwhelmed and in need of a helping hand.