4 Ways to Reduce Employee Stress in the Workplace
It doesn’t take an MIT engineering whiz to tell you that stress is a serious problem. But it might open your eyes to learn that even MIT brings puppy therapy onto its campus to reduce students’ anxiety and the negative, sometimes nonobvious consequences of stress.
As an employer, you can’t necessarily turn your workplace into a playroom for romping pooches, but you do need to think creatively about ways to combat job-related stress. After all, despite it being a naturally occurring phenomenon, it’s causing everything from tension headaches to hair loss to high blood pressure.
And those are just the more noticeable, easily measurable effects.
The stress outcomes you don’t necessarily notice are equally sinister and dangerous—especially to your profit margins. Consider irritability, for instance. An irritable teammate is less likely to “play nice” with others and might stir the pot, potentially making every meeting toxic. Similarly, a worker under significant strain might experience difficulty focusing, leading to mistakes and overlooked assignments.
Of course, you can’t remove all stress; some of it is necessary to spur action. However, you need to take another look at how it’s impacting your workforce, as well as how you can temper known and anticipated stressors.
We’re all Aware of Stress. Now, We Need to Act on Our Awareness.
Employers everywhere are facing an interesting conundrum: American unemployment rates are plummeting to record lows. Yet more than 80 percent of employees are still worried about everything from declining annual pay and promotions to added work without added compensation to rampant college graduate underemployment. This is especially true among the younger generation.
The Harris Interactive “Work Stress Survey” discovered that not only had the number of national residents under stress at work increased from 73 to 83 percent in the past year, but also the vast majority were in the Generation Z, Millennial, and Generation X categories. Only Baby Boomers seemed to feel a reduction in stress levels.
Why the generational discrepancy? One possibility is social media and its “idealistic” aspect.
Most people only post good things on their social accounts, shining a positive light that can produce frustration and anxiety in others. When Dave sees Danielle’s Facebook albums of the Jamaican trip she won for being the top salesperson at her company, he might immediately question his own life. Why aren’t his sales numbers up to par like hers are? Why doesn’t his organization offer great trip incentives? Does Danielle make significantly more than he does?
Although this type of social envy might only last for seconds, it builds up during the day. According to research from Pew Research Center, 88 percent of people under the age of 30 use at least one form of social media. Contrast that number with 36 percent of individuals over age 65 who do the same. Perhaps all those clicks, swipes, and follows are producing as many feel-bad thoughts as feel-good ones, explaining why a 68-year-old complains of stress far less often than someone 40 years her junior.
While you can’t necessarily retrain your younger employees to spend less time on Instagram or Facebook, you can help everyone relax and more fully engage while on the clock by doing a few simple things:
- Encourage work/life balance through boundaries.
You might pride your top superstars for being workhorses, but even thoroughbreds require downtime. Periodically, do spot checks to ensure staff members are using their paid time off and not simply stashing it away. Similarly, make it a standard policy for managers to go around at the end of the day to encourage workers to wrap things up and head home. You can even have employees set flexible schedules as workload allows.
Not sure those techniques will work with your driven team of ultra-competitive rock stars? Bring stress relief to them if they won’t go after it. Some workplaces offer occasional chair massage therapist visits and similar events as treats to let go of built-up tension.
- Become a proponent of office exercise.
Nothing takes the bite out of stress better than a 10-minute exercise break. Don’t worry about setting up a full-on gym at your company; set aside a space complete with a few stretch bands, medicine balls, ab exercise balls, and maybe even a piece of cardio equipment. Use the area yourself to illustrate that it’s completely OK to take a few moments to boost endorphins and promote creativity.
Looking for inspiration for your exercise oasis and future possibilities? Boston’s Drizly organized volleyball and kickball teams, credited workers with a stipend to go toward fitness, and eventually offered on-site classes. The company’s move toward a healthier workplace progressed organically; yours can and should, too.
- Ask employees how they like to relax.
Why put pressure on yourself to become a mind reader? Survey your employees to find out how they like to reduce stress, and then pull together a list of ways you can make those moments happen in the workplace.
For instance, you might encourage people to listen to music throughout the day. Have a few extra dollars to throw at an innovative concept? Buy team members an upgraded Pandora or Spotify subscription so they can generate soothing playlists. While it’s important to ensure your employees are still meeting deadlines and getting their work done, you’ll know that your people are getting some music therapy—and destressing at the same time.
- Provide healthy snacks for the office.
You can’t do much about your workers’ nutritional choices at home, but be sure to have nutrient-rich snacks on hand in the office. You might even want to bring in a balanced lunch for your employees once a week or month. Even just keeping a supply of healthy office snacks on hand can ward off the “hangries” and improve performance.
Everyone falls for stress eating sooner or later, so the healthier you can make the selections, the better. Why add to the growing waistline problem, which could eventually chip away at your own healthcare costs?
Whether you realize it or not, people give off energy. The more positive the energy in your workplace, the more positive the environment. It’s such a simple formula: Encouraging successful workers leads to better ideas, output, and profit margins. No MIT degree needed.
|Jonathan Shapiro is the founder and chief snack officer at WorkPerks, a company that’s helping organizations improve office culture and client relationships by providing unique snack experiences for the workplace and one-of-a-kind gifts for clients. “Hangry” employees aren’t productive, and unhappy clients are bad for business. WorkPerks aims to solve those problems one snack at a time.|
The post 4 Ways to Reduce Employee Stress in the Workplace appeared first on HR Daily Advisor.