Work is pervasive in many aspects of our lives, from health insurance to retirement savings and even friendships. Therefore, it’s unsurprising that stress in the workplace can leak into the rest of our lives. While there’s some small level of workplace stress that might never entirely dissipate, there are ways to drastically reduce the inevitable office stress.
In 2012, 65 percent of Americans cited work as a top source of stress and only 37 percent of Americans surveyed said they were doing an excellent or very good job managing stress, according to a survey conducted by the APA (the American Psychological Association).
And if you think stress in the workplace leads to a bad mood and nothing more, think again. As the BMJ points out, “stress accounts for more than a third of all cases of work-related ill health and almost half of all working days lost due to illness”—stressed employees directly impact the productivity of your company as well as your company culture overall.
Everyone will develop different strategies for dealing with stress but employers and managers can play a major role in helping to reduce that stress. If managing your employees’ psyches sounds daunting, don’t fret—there are a variety of tried and true ways to reduce stress in the workplace. Here’s how to reduce stress at the workplace and take the first step in creating a happier and healthier environment for your people.
The Main Causes of Stress in the Workplace
The best way to start reducing stress in your office is by first determining where it’s stemming from in the first place. The American Psychological Association has set out seven common causes of work stress:
- Low salaries
- Excessive workloads
- Too few opportunities for growth or advancement
- Work that isn’t engaging or challenging
- A lack of social support
- Not enough control over job-related decisions
- Conflicting demands or unclear performance expectations
A psychological study titled “Work, Stress, Coping, and Stress Management” also adds mistreatment in the workplace as a common problem. “Typical workplace mistreatment behaviors include gossiping, rude comments, showing favoritism, yelling, lying, and ignoring others at work,” the authors explain.
In addition to coming in a variety of forms, workplace stress can manifest on different levels as well. Another study published in Work & Stress notes that the “individual, group, leader, and organizational (IGLO) levels” all have a role to play in creating or reducing stress in the workplace.
Think about where stress originates in your company. If you’re not sure (it can be tough to keep the pulse of things like this when you’re at the top), talk to the people in your organization or deploy an employee survey. Ultimately, your stress reduction plan can only be as strong as your understanding of your employee’s stressors in the first place.
How Employers Can Reduce Workplace Stress
Now that you’ve had a chance to identify the sources of stress at your company, it’s time to start addressing them. One of the leading ways that employers can help reduce the work-related stress is offering programs and creating policies that encourage workers to take time off to recharge. As the APA points out, “to avoid the negative effects of chronic stress and burnout, we need time to replenish and return to our pre-stress level of functioning.”
One common benefit that companies offer to reduce stress is a workplace wellness program. By offering incentives like discounted gym memberships or cash rewards for participation things like weight loss programs, companies can inspire their employees to take valuable time out to take care of themselves physically and mentally.
If your business is not ready to offer discounts or cash incentives, consider offering flexible work arrangements or crafting a killer PTO policy. Whether it’s being able to take a child to the doctor in the middle of the day, or the ability to reschedule a therapy appointment without having to worry about missing work, allowing employees to work from home every once in a while and giving them to take reasonable time off when they need to can go a long way in reducing workplace stress.
Ultimately, effectively managing the stress that work causes your employees is all about having open and honest conversations about what’s really going on and then genuinely working to address problems in the name of crafting a healthy workplace. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but once you know what’s happening at your company and how other organizations have gone about trying to fix similar issues, you’ve already won half the battle.