How to help employees manage stress

Employees need your help in managing their stress.

Workplace stress costs the United States $300 billion every year due to issues with: absenteeism; health, medical and legal costs; diminished productivity; accidents; and employee turnover. Help your employees destress for better business outcomes.

How can you help employees manage stress? Here are 6 ways you can try to lessen the load and keep everyone healthy, engaged and productive at work.

Be the kind of boss you want to work for

75% of surveyed workers identified their boss as the number one source of stress in their jobs. While this is discouraging news for the state of interpersonal relationships in the office, it can also be empowering. If you are a supervisor, you have a great opportunity to alleviate the stress of your direct reports.

The top 5 reasons an employee gave for what causes bad days at work are:

  1. A lack of help and support from my boss
  2. Negative coworkers
  3. Lack of praise and recognition for the work I do
  4. Uncertainty about the workplace’s vision and strategy
  5. Busyness/high work load

As a boss, you can directly alleviate 80% of these issues and greatly impact the other 20%. To do so, try the following:

  • Be there for your direct reports – give them the security to come to you with issues, questions, concerns and problems. Even if you can’t always fix the problem, it’s important to have the lines of communication open.
  • Recognize employees’ hard work privately and publicly. Even if you are acknowledging their successes behind closed doors, they might feel like you are taking credit for their accomplishments if you don’t give accolades more publicly.
  • Communicate openly and transparently about the mission of the company. Even if you are not in an overall leadership position, you can share your personal goals and objectives.
  • Take things off their plates when you can. If everyone is overworked, then be an advocate for yourself and your employees by addressing issues with leadership.
  • Practice a culture of positivity in the workplace. Work with other managers and leaders to cultivate an office culture that doesn’t tolerate gossip, rudeness or being unprofessional.

Offer more flexibility

Another big source of stress for employees is managing their work-life balance. This is true for both men and women, though women may feel the negative impacts on their career more keenly. In fact, 43% of surveyed workers said they would rather have more flexibility in their job than a raise.

This flexibility can help alleviate the stress associated with work-life balance. A study by the University College Medical School in London found that the workplace factors associated with increased absenteeism from the psychological symptoms of stress were:

  • Long working hours
  • The effects of long hours, overwork and pressure on personal lives
  • A lack of control and participation in decision making

More flexibility can help address these issues. Remote work, flexible schedules and a focus on results rather than processes can help employees get more work done in ways that make sense for their lives. An increase in work-life balance will help employees feel more in control of their day-to-day lives and decrease stress.

Make the office more inviting

No one likes spending 8 hours (or more) in an unpleasant environment every day. If your office is outdated, uncomfortable or just plain terrible, making the workplace more pleasant can help employees feel more productive and relaxed.

Consider the following techniques for a more pleasant office:

  • Ditch the fluorescent bulbs for incandescent light fixtures
  • Make sure the entire office is kept at a comfortable temperature
  • Give employees a refuge with quiet, secluded areas to decompress or buckle down without interruption
  • Have collaborative spaces where employees can socialize and work together so no one feels isolated

Discourage after-hours work

Working long hours is one of the biggest causes of workplace stress because it interferes with employees’ ability to have a personal life. If they never feel like they can switch off, it can make them feel like their work day is never done.

Set boundaries on work hours and stick to them yourself. Setting the example that work ends at a certain time will make everyone more relaxed, including you.

 Eliminate multitasking when possible

Another possible source of stress for employees is being expected to multitask. Not only is multitasking inefficient, it can lead to confusion about what is most important in their day-to-day job.

Instead, encourage your direct reports to complete a task before moving onto another responsibility. You can also help them prioritize what tasks to tackle first by helping them see which of their tasks are more pressing due to time or other factors.

Have a little fun

Though it may sound trite, having some fun in the office can help reduce stress levels, and even make employees more productive. Some examples to consider are:

  • Offering group exercise or activity options before, during or after work
  • Having board games or LEGOs in meeting spaces
  • Hosting happy hours, parties or other social gatherings off-campus
  • Organizing potlucks or providing free lunch occasionally
  • Relaxing ultra-formal office conduct rules to allow employees to show their personality and sense of humor
  • Let everyone leave early once in a while
  • Host a bring your pet to work day

Workplace stress doesn’t have to be a reality in your office. Reduce employee stress to help your business succeed.

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