Spotting, managing and helping reduce stress in the workplace is perhaps one of the biggest challenges for today’s businesses, particularly in entrepreneurial environments, where multi-tasking and high-pressure comes with the territory.

However, a leading stress specialist says that understanding the differences between how men and women cope with the issue could be key to a happy, productive workforce, entrepreneurs and business owners play a pivotal role in this.

Paula Ruane, who runs Ruane BioEnergetics, which utilises specialist training to help businesses and individuals manage stress, explains more: “Generally speaking, women are more open about suffering from stress, and know they have do something about it. Men take it as a personal failure or a weakness and are much more reluctant to seek help.

“Instead, men reveal stress in other ways, such as irritability, a lack of concentration, sickness and reduced productivity.  Worryingly, the Stress Management Society reports that men are three times more likely to become alcohol dependent than women during times of stress, leading to much bigger health problems.”

Paula Ruane - Ruane BioEnergetics

Paula Ruane – Ruane BioEnergetics

The reasons for the different approaches to stress are down to both environmental and psychological factors, as Paula explains: “While there is a lot of emphasis on female empowerment in the workplace through support groups, there isn’t really an equivalent for men. Perhaps this is because of the old notion of the workplace being a ‘man’s world’ and their natural environment.  As a result, men are more conditioned to just get on with it.

“There is also a scientific aspect too.  The hard-wiring of the brain makes men and women think and behave differently. This is a bit of a generalisation, but women are more inclined to nurturing, caring and being collaborative, while men are more inclined to problem solving, being competitive and working on their own. The differences between genders means that a one-size fits all approach does not work when it comes to stress.”

So what can businesses do about this?                  

Often business owners notice stress in an employee when things are at breaking point, i.e. work is being severely affected, or they have had to take time off work.

However, owners need to be adept at spotting stress in their staff, and also bear in mind that male colleagues may not be as forthcoming. For example, regularly catching up with the team may help identify major issues before they

To tackle the different approaches to stress of men and women, Paula suggests a personalised approach: “This may sound counter-intuitive, but despite all I’ve said, don’t make it about gender! Make it about the individual.  Speaking to staff on a one-to-one level will make employees – whether men or women – feel more comfortable about opening up about any issues they may have.”

Paula suggests also utilising external expertise where appropriate, and using specialist stress reduction tools.

Paula practices the ground-breaking HeartMath training which enables people to control their heart rhythms and manage day-to-day stress using tools and techniques which are ground in decades of scientific research. Paula is one of only 75 licenced group practitioners of HeartMath the UK.

Working closely with business owners and company HR departments to understand any issues within the workforce, Paula then engages employees in a unique three-step system which looks at symptoms and patterns of stress, techniques for treatment and management of emotions.

So far, Paula has worked with a range of businesses and individuals from sectors such as law, accounting, and healthcare. Clients have reported better sleep, reduced anxiety and greater clarity, all of which has improved their work.

Around 60% of Paula’s clients are women, further reinforcing the view that they are more forthcoming about receiving help.

Paula concludes: “The different attitudes to stress won’t change overnight. But the message needs to be reinforced that stress is not a sign of weakness, and business owners play a crucial role in sharing this message.”

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