How mentoring programmes reduce workplace stress



If you knew there was a crisis happening in your organisation that was causing poor productivity and ruining your workplace culture, what would you do? Would you investigate the root cause of the problem? Would you put policies in place to help your people overcome the challenge at hand? Would you speak openly about this crisis with your senior leaders? All the best business leaders would say ‘of course’ to these questions.

But there is a crisis happening. And almost half of UK organisations do not have a policy in place to help their people deal with it. That crisis is workplace stress. In fact, 79% of the UK workforce report commonly experiencing stress in the workplace, amounting to 12.8 million sick days taken in 2018-19. This issue of workplace stress is not only damaging for our people, but for workplace cultures and productivity too.

So how can HR take charge of this ongoing crisis? And reverse the impact of workplace stress amongst their teams? Often organisations will head straight to wellness programmes, enforcing policies and management training to reduce stress in the workplace. And overlook the one strategy that can empower people, boost self-esteem and give bespoke, personal support to employees: Mentoring programmes.

What causes workplace stress?

Understanding how mentoring programmes can help combat workplace stress starts with exploring what causes this stress. The leading causes of workplace stress are said to be office politics and poor communication (37% and 34% respectively). These are topics which may well be tackled with typical stress-busting policies. Such as improved communications between departments and management training. But in third and fourth place were causes in which mentoring programmes can help to squash:

  • The performance of others (e.g. junior members of the team) – 33%
  • The respondents own personal performance – 31%

So, with 84% of leaders saying mentoring helped them become proficient in their role faster, and 69% saying it helped them make better work-related decisions – it’s time to consider mentoring programmes as a way to combat workplace stress. 

Implementing mentoring programmes that tackle stress 

It’s likely that in reading this article so far you’ve considered how mentoring programmes can reduce a mentee’s workplace stress. And it may shock you to discover that mentoring programmes actually reduce stress for the mentee and their mentor. In fact, research shows that mentoring programmes raise self-awareness, boost confidence and help to develop professional relationships for both parties.

How mentoring programmes reduce mentee stress

So how do mentoring programmes combat workplace stress for a mentee? Likely more junior in their career than their mentor, mentees will face many challenges at work. The first time they come up against these challenges, they’re likely to feel overwhelming and intimidating. In these times of need, their mentor can step in and give advice, support and encouragement. Immediately reducing stress and anxiety in the mentee and improving their emotional health.

Often when imagining mentoring relationships we incorrectly picture someone extremely  junior in their career. But picture this instead: the mentee is somebody is taking their first steps into management. They have a team member that has potential, but is not performing. Who do they, the new manager, turn to for support and guidance? How can they get the most out of their team? Do they overthink and worry? Do they turn to your organisation’s digital learning platform? Or worst still, the unreliable resources of Google?

Wouldn’t it be more beneficial for the individual, and the company as a whole, if a mentor could step in? To give unbiased support, guidance and advice to the first-time manager? To provide tried and tested approaches that may help the manager overcome the problem at hand?

Mentoring in this instance, when compared to other workplace learning, provides the most effective, impactful form of learning. It is bespoke and tailored to the mentees needs, from a trusted adviser that understands their unique situation. 

How mentoring programmes reduce mentor stress

The above is a typical explanation of how you’d imagine a mentoring programme to help reduce stress. The mentor provides guidance and support to the mentee based on their own experiences. Helping the mentee to get to a successful outcome quicker than if they were to go it alone. So how can a mentoring programme reduce workplace stress for a mentor themselves?

The third most common cause of workplace stress is worrying about the performance of others. This is often a circumstance that an employee has little, or no, control over. However, by enrolling as a mentor, the individual may feel as though they are contributing to making a change. Scoping the junior members of the team to be more productive in their roles. Which in turn, makes the job of the mentor much more rewarding (whilst also combatting the worry of poor performance of other team members). In fact, research shows that mentoring of junior colleagues can reduce anxiety and improve the mental health of mentors themselves.

How mentoring to reduce stress improves overall workplace culture 

It’s a safe assumption to make that if your employees are less stressed they’ll enjoy their work more. And are more likely to facilitate the growth of a better workplace culture. But with ‘poor workplace culture’ hitting spot 8 of the top 10 reasons employees feel stressed at work – it’s not enough to assume. 

Provision of support, guidance and collaboration through mentoring programmes is a great way to boost your workplace culture. But also on the list is aligning your values with your people and facilitating open communication. Although perhaps not your first thought, mentoring programmes help with these too. Mentors should empower their mentees to speak up and communicate better. They should champion their mentee and their strengths throughout the business. And they should also feedback their mentees’ concerns to HR or senior leaders. Speak to your mentors and ask them how you can better align your organisation’s values to those of your people. This clear communication path will only bolster your workplace culture, and in turn reduce workplace stress in the long-run. 

Mentoring programmes prioritise your people

Each reason listed in the most common causes of workplace stress stem back to issues of worry. By embarking on a mentoring programme that makes your people feel supported, encouraged and empowered to do their work – you’ll be well on your way to combating workplace stress. And by giving your mentors the opportunity to impart their knowledge and wisdom to more junior members of the team, you will not only be making their roles more fulfilling, you’ll also be making your organisation as a whole, more productive. 

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