By: Amy Dozier on May 4th, 2021

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How to Best Reduce Employee Stress in 2021

Total Rewards | Employee Relations

Stress has long been a part of working life. In previous years, one in three workers said that they typically feel stressed at work. Since the pandemic, however, stress levels have skyrocketed, as employees have scrambled to adapt to a world of remote work while also worrying about their family’s health.  

Post-pandemic life looks set to be just as uncertain. There are concerns about the economy, ongoing worries about health, and the challenges of new working practices. Many people are now working longer hours, which further contributes to stress. 

Download the guide: 20 Questions to Ask Your HR LeaderThat is a concern for employers, as prolonged stress leads to more serious health conditions that could result in absenteeism and declining productivity. As a leader in your organization, there are things you can do to reduce the help manage stress and promote employee well-being. 

6 Tips to Reduce Employee Stress in Your Workplace 

Stress management is mostly a matter of good communication between managers and team members. Here are some tips on how to help promote well-being within your team.  

1) Communicate and set expectations upfront 

Make sure you set clear expectations with your employees, so they understand exactly what you expect from them. It helps to set clear targets and give regular progress reports. When someone is underperforming, address the issue in a timely manner and offer them help. 

Right now, it is more important than ever to communicate the state of the business. Many people have seen loved ones get furloughed or lose their jobs entirely, and that makes them fear for their own job security. I recommend making sure employees know how the organization is doing. If you do not communicate critical 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. 

2) Have a 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 or don't want our managers to think we are not dedicated or taking advantage of working remotely. I know I am guilty of it! When your employees see you working through lunch and sitting behind your computer 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.  

This attitude is even more important when remote working. Telecommuting can help reduce stress, as employees have a greater deal of control over their own schedule. However, people may end up working longer hours and checking work emails late into the night. It is important that everyone has some downtime each evening, so they can return to work refreshed the next day.  

3) Encourage time off 

Time away from work allows people to refresh and rejuvenate. 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 Paid Time Off (PTO) hours that can be rolled over, which forces employees to use their accrued time. 

Research by Helios HR shows that 48% of employees get between 11 and 15 days of PTO during the first year of their employment. The majority of employers allow people to carry unused PTO into the following year, but one-third will exercise a carry-forward cap of 40 hours. Around 60% of companies allow their employees to incur a negative PTO balance of up to 40 hours, which then comes out of the following year’s allocation.  


4) Have fun 

Having friends at work and good relationships with your coworkers can reduce stress and increase engagement. Sadly, the pandemic has disrupted these relationships, and many teams are in business-only mode. You can still do things to have fun with remote teams, like Zoom happy hours and a Slack channel dedicated to general chat.  

There are some classic ideas that you can adapt for teams that are not always in the office: an NCAA tournament bracket competition, virtual potluck lunches, and Zoom hangouts for birthdays.  When people are on-site, you can take the team for a walk around the building when you feel the stress building in the office. These activities not only create a fun environment but they will also allow employees to get to know each other and build relationships. 

5) Listen to your employees and address their concerns 

If an employee comes to you expressing concerns, 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. 

6) Create and communicate an Employee Assistance Program 

Look into adding an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to your benefits suite if you do not already have one. An EAP allows employees to access counselors who help with stressful issues, such as financial problems, personal issues, or family health concerns. An EAP can also assist with stress directly through psychological services. Make sure you have a strong communication plan to roll out your EAP if you’re providing one for the first time, and even if you already have one in place, remind your employees about the benefit on a frequent basis including the details on how to access it. 

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. 

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