By Lindsey Appleby-Flynn, Connect2Care’s mental health expert

It’s no secret that educating the next generation can be a stressful career. The responsibility and daily pressures on early years managers, educators and practitioners can be stress inducing at the best of times – add to that a global pandemic, and that stress gets taken up a few notches. The Health and Safety Executive defines stress as ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them’.

As part of Stress Awareness Month this April, we’re encouraging all early years’ businesses to build their awareness of work-related stress and take action! Stress isn’t avoidable but it is manageable, no matter what our position – all of us are a vital part of the puzzle when managing stress within the workplace.

At Connect2Care, we’re dedicated to improving the mental health of those working in the early years sector. Following a tough year of changes, this Stress Awareness Month is the perfect time for leaders to incorporate stress management into their businesses. We’re sharing our five top tips to reduce stress in your teams, helping everyone to flourish again.

Reduce risk

There are plenty of causes of stress, although most contributing factors are unique to both the individual and business they’re in. All employers are legally obliged to guard their employees from stress by performing stress risk assessments and implementing strategies to combat stress. A stress risk assessment could look at:

  • Are employees comfortable with the amount of work they have? Consider how employees’ workloads can be delegated or modified to reduce the stress of the team and individual.
  • Do employees feel they have sufficient support from management? Openly discuss what support management can offer the entire team and every employee if possible. This can be small things, such as reviewing working hours so employees support both their families and workloads.

Additionally, mental health first aiders act as the first point of contact for people struggling with their mental health, providing support to colleagues. Mental health first aiders are commonly utilised in all businesses today, proving to be a cost effective and important asset when reducing risk of stress and improving mental health in the workplace. You can learn more about stress risk assessments and mental health first aiders in our free e-guide, Creating a Mental Health Inclusive Workplace.

Establish goals

Setting new goals or clarifying current individual and team goals may help rekindle people’s motivation levels. Re-establishing aims and objectives encourages people to step away from feelings of stress by offering an alternative focus. 

Additionally, as a leader this keeps you up-to-date on how far away goals are from completion. Taking time to stop and look at where you and your team are gives everyone peace of mind because you will be able to refocus your energy and remember why these things are important.

Introduce flexibility

Encouraging structure and routine to children is the nature of early years, this is why it’s important to introduce some sort of flexibility to your team. Although goals are important, allowing team members to have autonomy over their workloads will help ease any feelings of pressure.

Other examples of flexibility include, changes of environment such as allowing team members to try new things, or offering flexibility over working hours for team members with responsibilities at home, such as childcare or caring for a relative. The greatest managers constantly look for ways to reduce stress in individuals and teams they care for.

Show gratitude

Individuals who feel they have a positive rapport with management are more likely to focus on their tasks, but more importantly be transparent about their own stress levels. It’s more important than ever to ensure that your team members feel valued and part of your ‘family’. 

Recognising an individual and collective efforts of your team members is an important step to take when reducing stress. This can be done through simple conversations, complimenting their work, making announcements during meetings or through rewards such as small gestures or additional time off. 

Encourage training

Despite stress levels running high, the chance for your team to ‘press pause’ and learn something new may give them the stress-relief they need. Relevant training courses are a fantastic opportunity for your team to gain the tools to manage their stress levels, mental health and build resilience. 

At Connect2Care, we offer short courses on How to Manage Anxiety and Burnout and Awareness of First Aid for Mental Health. These courses will give your team the tools they need to boost their mental wellbeing and be more aware of their own mental health. 

Further support to manage stress in the workplace

As an employer, you can also take steps to begin establishing your workplace as one inclusive of mental health by downloading our free e-guide, Creating a Mental Health Inclusive Workplace. In this guide, we discuss the issues which impact mental health in the workplace and provide information on current legal requirements in a language we can all understand.

If you and your team are under high levels of stress, the Reduce Stress in 7 Days programme by Stress Management Society may relieve the pressure and help build resilience. Additionally, they offer a free individual stress test to help you gauge the level of stress that you’re under. 

Let’s work together this Stress Awareness Month, by regaining connectivity, certainty and control.

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