Stress affects everyone at some point in time. There are different types of stress, as per the National Institute of Mental Health. The most common is routine stress from work, financial situations, family, and other daily responsibilities. Stress could also be caused by sudden negative changes like an illness, death, or divorce. Finally, there’s traumatic stress experienced during the war, major accidents, disasters. It would be impossible to address every single one of these, but employers can certainly help by preventing the work environment from adding to their employees’ stress. 

According to the American Institute of Stress, 80% of U.S. workers feel stressed on the job. How does this affect you as an employer? Workplace stress costs about $300 billion in lost productivity annually. With small businesses, in particular, the limited staff tremendously increases the workload on each employee – and with too much work comes that silent killer, stress. While it is an expected part of the job, there are a few red flags that you must pay attention to, both in yourself and in your employees. 

  1. Insomnia
  2. Anxiety or depression
  3. Short temper
  4. Low morale or drive
  5. Headache
  6. Back or stomach problems

Obviously, even one of the above can seriously limit your productivity. A combination of them can rule out a whole day of work. 

Most people manage stress in their own way, perhaps by sleeping better, exercising more often, separating personal and work life, prioritizing, therapy or meditation and other relaxation methods. This is essential in keeping the individual healthy, motivated and capable of handling their day-to-day responsibilities, both at work and at home. There are also several ways employers can contribute towards improving the well-being of employees in the workplace – it may cost a bit in the short term but a little goes a long way in terms of employee satisfaction and productivity. 

First, you might want to directly address the issue of the workplace as a source of stress. Managers must make sure the office environment does not unduly affect the stress levels of your employees.

  • Check that every employee’s workload is appropriate: They each have a different work capacity, some can handle heavier loads while others might already have too much on their plate. 
  • Have regular meetings with staff: Open communication about their problems can help alleviate some of that work stress. These meetings can be informal and for the sole purpose of allowing employees to let off steam and talk about what’s bothering them in the office.
  • Address negative and illegal actions in the workplace immediately: Bullying, harassment, and discrimination are all negative acts that should never be tolerated in the workplace, no matter the scale. If it distracts workers from performing their best, then it should be addressed and settled as soon as possible. Adding to the previous point, this can only be achieved if managers create an environment where employees feel comfortable communicating such matters openly without fear of being judged or cut short. 
  • Recognize and award employees for their successes: It feels good to be acknowledged. Set a day aside to reward or recognize your workers for their outstanding performance. Many companies like Starbucks and Walmart appoint a weekly or monthly “Employee of the Year” to show off these star performers. It’s a good, cost-effective incentive for the rest of the employees and simultaneously decreases stress-levels. 

Aside from addressing work-related issues, there are a number of activities that can be held in the office to help reduce stress. Every worker has their own personal stressors apart from those in the office. Again, the budgeting for these will probably tight, especially if you’re a start-up. But if it increases productivity and profitability in the long run, your current cash shortage will definitely be worth it.  

  • Provide a designated meditation room: Your employees can use this space to unwind, relax, pray or to just breathe. 
  • Offer exercise classes or gym memberships: Exercise is a great way to relieve and even prevent stress. Variety in times (before or after work, during lunch, etc.) as well as in the types of classes (kickboxing, yoga) will attract your employees and keep them interested in staying healthy.
  • Increase the number of paid vacations or personal days: While this may be a bit more expensive depending on your company’s financial footing, paid leave encourages employees to take a break and spend time with family or to rest and recuperate. This is a great way to re-energize your staff.
  • Personalized or funny awards for company-hosted events: Print funny jokes or thoughts of the day on flyers or on inexpensive mementos to give to your employees for office contests and games.
  • Host a comedy day: You cannot laugh and worry at the same time. Hire a stand-up comedian, host a movie night with classic comedies, or imitate AFV and hold a contest for the funniest home videos or jokes. This builds team spirit and coincidentally gets rid of pent-up frustration.

These are just some of the ways you can ensure that your workplace does not contribute to your employees’ stress. Minimize inefficient or frustrating policies and protocols, overwhelming workloads, and feel free to implement the above – you’ll find that a positive and supportive workplace creates a happier, healthier, and infinitely more productive team. 

Next in the series, “The Secret Behind Employee Success”, we’ll talk about another overlooked aspect of the workplace – office ergonomics – and how it can impact the productivity of your team.

Check out HR Learn For Work for quick-and-easy training solutions to ensure your team stays healthy, motivated and productive.