In addition to the personal toll stress takes, there is a cost to business in terms of engagement, productivity, and money. Try these tips to reduce workers’ stress.
Here's what you need to know:
- Workload, interpersonal issues, and work/life balance are 3 major causes of workplace stress
- Possible ways to reduce workers’ stress include reducing work hours, allowing for remote or flexible work, and providing commuter benefits
- Other ways to help reduce employees’ stress include encouraging or requiring time off, giving them tools to manage time effectively, listening, and providing access to wellness programs
Stress is everywhere — at work, at home, even at play. When stress invades the workplace, either from pressure on the job or carried over from personal lives, business and employees suffer.
A major stress-inducer for most people is work: Zippia found more than 80% of Americans suffer from work-related stress: another 76% say workplace stress impacts their personal life.
In addition to the personal toll stress takes, there is a cost to business. The same survey revealed businesses lose up to $300 billion every year in lost productivity because of workplace stress.
About a million employees miss a day of work because of it. Almost 2/3 are ready to quit because of stress, and more than 15% report they have done so.
For business, workplace stress means more than dealing with crabby employees. It’s costing you engagement, talent, and money. Whatever organizations can do to help employees reduce or manage stress is a net positive.
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What are the factors stressing your employees out?
The Zippia survey found 3 major causes of workplace stress: workload at 39%; interpersonal issues at 31%; and managing work/life balance at 19%. There are ways to address these issues specifically, as well as offer help and resources to manage stress overall.
These days everyone is trying to do more with less, and fewer coworkers is at the top of the list of what we’re doing without. As businesses struggle to hire, employees on the job are carrying the weight. They may not be under-appreciated, but they’re clearly overworked.
Helping staffers begins with recognizing their stress — you’re probably feeling it yourself. If there are ways to lighten the load, short of shutting down completely, consider them.
Can you cut working hours to give employees more time off? They may feel the few hours lost on their paycheck are worth giving up for a few more hours of free time.
You may be trying to recoup losses incurred during the pandemic, but are you doing so at the cost of employee health and well-being? Build your business back slowly, if possible, at a pace that is sustainable. You may not want to turn down orders, but if accepting them means burning out staff members, it’s not worth the risk.
Can you work with trainees? It may seem like it takes more time to train someone than do the work yourself, but there’s a long-term benefit. Even if employees are only able to delegate minor tasks in the beginning, there’s value in hiring someone with potential, even if they don’t check all the qualification boxes.
When employees don’t get along, trouble ensues. There may be personality clashes, differences in ways to get the job done, or unresolved issues that have festered. When a ‘they’re adults, hands-off’ approach doesn’t work, you may have to intervene.
Everyone knows who’s not getting along: if they’re still able to produce their work effectively, you might be able to ignore it. If it starts to impact others, or affect productivity, it’s time to step in.
Consider talking to each of the employees separately to find out what caused the rift. Ask them to discuss the matter together, with an impartial 3rd party to try to resolve it. If they are willing, be ready to hear and reflect on both sides of the situation.
They may each be right in their own way; 1 may be wrong; or they may both be. Work carefully with them to come to some resolution that’s agreeable to everyone. There may not be a road to reconciliation.
If they can’t come to terms with each other, however, you’ll need to let both parties know they’re expected to behave professionally, no matter what their personal feelings are.
Work/life balance has always been a juggling act for employees, particularly those with families. The pandemic intensified the pressure to manage home, family, and work. Some employees are hesitant to return on-site; others are readjusting to getting kids to school and getting to the bus stop on time.
The majority of employees cite flexibility as a top priority in their company.
As we return to routines, stress is inevitable. Businesses can help with minor adjustments that can make a big difference.
Are you able to allow workers to remain remote? If remote or hybrid work is an option it may be an excellent way to transition employees back to the job. If that’s not possible, can you be flexible with start and end times?
The majority of employees cite flexibility as a top priority in their company. Pushing back start times to accommodate less traffic or overcrowded public transportation could mean a world of difference in lowering stress levels.
If rising gas prices or bumper-to-bumper traffic is stressing employees, consider some options that may help. Carpools, commuter benefits and even driving more efficiently can provide some relief. If they’re not stressed out before they even get to their desk in the morning, their day might be a little less difficult.
What are other ways to help reduce employee stress?
These may be the most reported stresses from employees, but there are certainly others. You don’t need to know the exact cause of the stress to provide help and resources. Here are some other suggestions for lowering the pressure in your office.
Encourage (require) time off
Too many employees don’t take the sick, personal, and vacation time they’ve earned. They’re worried they won’t be able to manage the workload when they return: some feel shame for taking time off.
Employers should require employees to take the time they’ve earned to recharge. That starts with modeling the behavior from management. If you’re not taking a vacation, they think they shouldn’t either.
Encourage time hoarding
Give employees tools to manage their time effectively so they can self-reduce stress. Look at ways you can help employees streamline their day for the high-value tasks. When their day doesn’t overwhelm, their stress will reduce.
Meetings are huge time drains, often to the benefit of very few. They take time away from other tasks, adding to employee stress. Is it really a meeting or would an email suffice? Many managers argue no one reads their emails, so they have to have meetings.
Offer employees an option — read and acknowledge the email (you might even include a quick quiz at the end to make sure they understand the main points), or come to the meeting. You’ll be surprised how many respond to the email and how few arrive at the meeting.
Wellness programs may be the most underutilized benefit businesses provide, but they’re a valuable resource for staff members. Virtual one-on-one or group counseling services can give employees access to stress management that can help with their personal and professional pressures.
Communicate these benefits widely and often: remind staff these are confidential services they have access to, either for short-term help or for the long haul. A bonus for business: when employees have more control of their stress, they’re more productive on the job.
An open-door policy is worthless if no one is crossing the threshold. Don’t just tell employees you’re there to listen, actively seek out their thoughts and needs. Ask staff members how you can help them reduce stress on the job and act on any reasonable suggestions they have.
They may be happy just to vent, or to hear their concerns are valid and appreciated. They may be satisfied just to know you’re there to listen whenever they need it.
There may be easy solutions employees suggest that net great results. They may simply need a 15-minute break in the morning or afternoon to regroup.
They may ask that low-value tasks (like filing) be set aside temporarily, until headcount is increased. The people at the front-line know what they need. If you want to help them reduce stress, give them a voice.
Stress management is essential for everyone
Very few (lucky) people have no stress in their lives. For the rest of the world, stress needs to be managed. Whether it comes from personal or professional lives or both, helping employees manage stress benefits them and the company. Recognizing the pressure they’re under is appreciated: helping them deal with it is critical.