How to Best Reduce Stress in the Workplace
Stress is almost inevitable. We are all going to experience stress in our lives, whether it is figuring out which bills to pay first, trying to be at both kids' basketball games at the same time, a looming deadline for that huge project, a manager who continues to pile work on you, or your colleague who isn't pulling their weight.
Health Resource Network began sponsoring April as National Stress Awareness Month to educate people about the effects and dangers of stress and how to cope with it. Stress leads to more serious health conditions that could result in absenteeism and lower productivity. As a leader in your organization, there are things you can do to reduce the amount of stress on your employees.
6 Tips to Reduce Employee Stress:
- Communicate and set expectations up front. Make sure you are setting very clear expectations with your employees so they do not have to worry about whether they are meeting your expectations. Also communicate important business information and be honest. Although the economy seems to be picking up, people are still very afraid of being laid off. I recommend making sure employees know how the organization is doing. If you do not communicate important business information to employees they often start making their own assumptions, and that is how rumors start. Being open and honest about employee and organizational performance will help build their trust and reduce their stress.
- Healthy and Flexible Work Environment. All too often we find ourselves eating lunch at our desks because we feel we do not have time to take a break. I know I am guilty of it! When your employees see you working through lunch and staying at the office until the sun goes down, they will think that is the expectation. If this schedule is your habit, make sure your employees know it is not the standard. Verbally encourage people to get up and take a break to make time for themselves during the work day and when they do give them positive reinforcement for taking that break. Taking your mind off of work, will actually increase engagement and productivity levels. I also recommend implementing a telecommuting policy that allows employees to work from home if necessary. Today's generation is looking for flexibility, be it flexible work hours or to have the ability to work remotely. If employees know they can take care of personal business when it is necessary they will be less stressed.
- Encourage time off. Time away from work actually allows people to refresh and rejuvenate and when they return to work they are actually more productive. Encourage your employees to take time off. Many organizations have even implemented a cap on the number of PTO hours that can be rolled over, which forces employees to use their accrued time. See this article written by my colleague about the benefits of taking vacation.
- Have fun. Take a break every now and then and force a little fun on everyone. You can have an NCAA tournament bracket competition, potluck lunches, birthday celebrations, themed parties, or participate as a group in CSR activities. Another quick, easy, and free idea is take the whole team for a walk around the building when you feel the stress building in the office. These activities do not only create a fun environment, but they will also allow employees to get to know each other and build relationships. Having friends at work and good relationships with your coworkers can reduce stress and increase engagement.
- Listen to your employees and address their concerns. If an employee comes to you expressing a concern, listen to them and take them seriously. Even if the concern is something that you cannot change, do not ignore it. Explain the situation to the employee so they know that you care. A lot of stress can be created in the workplace by a manager who does not listen or express care for the team.
- Employee Assistance Program. Look into adding an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to your benefits suite if you do not already have one. Through an EAP, employees can access counselors who will help them address the things in their lives creating the stress be it financial issues, personal or family health issues, or aging parents, for example. An EAP can also offer assistance with dealing with stress directly through psychological services.
Helping your employees relieve and avoid stress will help them become happier, healthier, and more productive, all of which have a positive effect on your bottom line. You will see double the return on your investment by implementing activities, programs, and benefits to help reduce the stress in your employee's already stressful lives.
Take an extra effort this month to help your employees find ways to reduce stress in their lives by creating an environment that they enjoy entering every day. If all else fails, just give everyone a stress ball to keep on their desk!