The typical workweek is jam-packed with meetings, deadlines, and unceasing emails. Employees work long hours, even into the weekends on the regular, just to wake up on Monday morning to start the process all over again. Unfortunately, unmanaged and prolonged periods of stress can lead to burnout, negativity, and ultimately unproductive employees, regardless of how good they are at their jobs. Therefore, as a business owner, it’s a good idea to understand the impacts of workplace stress and to use strategies to address employee stress.
Before digging deeper into strategies that will help reduce stress in the workplace, it’s important to understand the damage that can be done by something as innocuous as stress on a regular basis. To put it simply, stress will have a negative impact on employees’ health, performance, and mental well-being. According to a study by Umass Lowell, the result of sustained stress on the job can cause issues such as job dissatisfaction, and low morale to more long-term implications like psychological disorders and cardiovascular disease. Suffice it to say that as a business owner, it is beneficial to look for ways to reduce workplace stress and create a better workplace environment for your employees.
It’s important to understand some of the common causes that can lead to stress in the workplace. Knowing these factors will help you avoid some situations that can be needlessly stressful for your employees. The following are some common reasons stated for workplace stress:
Now to the nuts of bolts of the issue, how to make some positive changes to reduce your employees’ stress levels:
It’s up to you as the owner or manager to create a sustainable professional life within your work environment. Aim to promote health and well-being to create a positive work-life balance. This can include being willing to give time off for mental health or allowing employees the time they need to address personal issues or those affecting their home lives. You can also pay for a company gym membership that features classes or perhaps stress relieving services or gift employees with services that have already been paid for that encourage relaxation, like yoga classes, massages, facials, etc.
Another important factor to consider when attempting to reduce stress levels in the workplace is the flexibility of your current schedules.
Professionals today thrive on flexibility and the ability to work when they feel most creative and productive. This can mean allowing employees to work remotely on occasion or incorporate flex hours. The idea is to allow employees to work wherever they are the most productive, and not adhere to the traditional 8-5 schedule that demands eight hours of straight work. Instead, it could look like two days on, one off, some 12-hour days, followed by some six hours, or some other combination.
In reality, if you think about it, if your business does not require having employees present at a certain hour to do their job, then it really shouldn’t matter if they want to work in the middle of the night and not come in until after 10 the next day or if they want to take an extra long lunch in the middle of the day and then work after 5 to get their assignments completed.
We all want to feel appreciated and acknowledged for our hard work. Therefore, making sure to recognize employees is a great way to boost their engagement and encourage them to keep working hard. Employee recognition is the number one mentioned factor for employees, with 82% of them wishing they received more recognition at their current workplace according to various studies.
Recognition has also been proven to be key in terms of retention and employee engagement. It can also help counteract the negative effects of a stressful environment too. Just consider how thanking your employees or acknowledging their hard work can impact their overall happiness and stress levels. While you might not be able to take all the responsibilities away from them, you can make sure they know they are valued, appreciated, and recognized for their efforts, day in and day out.
Ensure that there is healthy open communication between supervisors and employees to reduce interpersonal stress. There is nothing more frustrating for employees than not understanding exactly what is expected of them and then feeling as if they are missing the mark. Communication will improve much of this confusion and reduce stress overall. Also, keep in mind the quote from CEO Jeffery Morales, "...communicate in a respectful manner—don’t just tell your team members what you want, but explain to them why.” This outlines the importance of not just communicating but doing so in a respectful and cohesive way to benefit your entire team.
You can successfully reduce stress at work by creating areas to relax at work when employees need a break. Create purposeful spaces that are specifically designed to benefit employees’ stress levels away from bright lights, incorporate some plush furnishings that promote relaxation, and have some softer lighting. This is a great idea for a break room. Also, provide some healthy snacks for your employees to enjoy.
You can even create an outdoor relaxation spot with some shade where employees can leave their desks or workspaces and take a break or eat lunch. The idea is to create an escape from the mundane. Depending on the square footage you have available, you can even incorporate reading nooks, and nap stations, have a pool table, or even offer massage chairs. Don’t think of it as encouraging employees to stop working. Instead, it’s a way to energize them to keep them from burning out.
While creating a workplace where no stress is present at all might be impossible, you can address needless and unnecessarily high-stress levels by putting the above strategies into place. This will help your workforce pivot toward a less stressful future, allowing them to achieve their potential. In many cases, even if you are unable to alter the way your office functions or add recreational features, you can still help reduce the overall stress level simply by offering realistic expectations and compensating employees both through pay and recognition.