Stress is overwhelmingly prevalent in modern society. Sleep depravation, poor health, relationship woes and financial concerns can all take their toll, however the number one cause of stress, according to Statistic Brain is work related pressures.
High stress levels often cause or can worsen a long list of health issues, including heart disease, obesity, depression and diabetes. In addition to paying 50 percent more annually in health costs for stressed workers, employers are dealing with additional effects of stress that directly impact their profitability, such as loss of productivity, absenteeism, turnover and disengagement. According to the American Institute of Stress, job stress costs US businesses more than $300 billion annually.
Everyday work pressures are compounded by the current troubled economy and near constant news streams of foreclosures and layoffs, meaning employees are feeling the effects of anxiety and stress more than ever before. With this in mind, there has never been a more important time for employers to make reducing stress a top priority.
HOW CAN EMPLOYERS REDUCE STRESS IN THE WORKPLACE?
LEAD BY EXAMPLE
In order to reduce stress in the workplace, it’s important that managers lead by example. As a leader its critical you keep a lid on your own emotions; don’t let negativity, anger or stress rub off on your employees. Practice what you preach and ensure you give yourself enough time to de-stress at the end of the working day – go for a run, enjoy quality time with your family or arrange to socialize with friends. Likewise, organizing walking meetings rather than meetings in the boardroom, taking regular breaks and booking holiday will not only put you in a better frame of mind, it will also show your employees that its okay to take some time out.
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INTRODUCE WORKPLACE WELLNESS SCHEMES
It has been said time and time again, but exercise and a healthy lifestyle is extremely important when it comes to combating workplace related stress. Employee wellness schemes, such as paying for a portion of employees gym memberships or running group-wide healthy eating challenges is a good way to help employees unwind and feel better about themselves.
CREATE SOCIAL ACTIVITY
Employees spend a lot of time with their co-workers and therefore its important they get along. The more people enjoy their time at work, the better the atmosphere will be – and a better office atmosphere leads to productivity, creativity and collaboration. At least once a week set aside an hour to bring your team together in a fun environment; play a game, go out for lunch or arrange for a motivational speaker to come into the office. Social activity is good for reducing stress, boosting morale and team building.
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COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR EMPLOYEES
Open communication is critical in leadership; keeping employees up to date regarding changes, expectations and their own performance not only keeps them on track but also reduces feelings of stress and anxiety – after all there is nothing worse than being kept in the dark. As a manager be sure to keep your team abreast of the latest developments and departmental changes. What’s more, open communication is a two way street and the more you converse with your employees, the more likely they are to share concerns, ideas and thoughts making for much stronger working relationships and a healthier overall company culture.
PROVIDE A ‘CHILL OUT’ SPACE IN THE OFFICE
Sometimes people need 15 minutes to relax, re-group and disengage from technology and general work related interactions. Providing a quiet room, or a chill out zone where employees can spend 15 minutes with their thoughts can dramatically help reduce workplace stress and burnout. After taking a short break free from distractions, people often feel refreshed and re-energized to tackle the rest of the day. If you can, provide comfortable seating and paint the walls a neutral color – a pleasant environment is good for boosting happiness.
THINK ABOUT THE HABITAT
What do the likes of Facebook, Google and Twitter do different? Well for starters they think about every detail including their employees work surroundings. Not every company can build its own workers village, complete with health food restaurants and indoor bike lanes, however there is always room for improvement, particularly when it could boost productivity and overall job satisfaction. Think about budgeting for some brighter, more modern office furniture, consider changing the color of the walls (out with the sludge green and in with something fresher, cleaner and brighter), introduce some plants in the office, invest in some new pictures – even small changes like new office cutlery and kitchenware will make the working environment conducive to, well, work. If you have the room, a Ping-Pong or foosball table will go a long way to boosting employee morale too.
ALLOW FLEXI-TIME AND REMOTE WORKING
A major stress inducer, particularly for women, is stringent working hours. Allowing employees to work remotely, or even on a flexi-time scheme is proven to be good for morale and thus profitability. Not only are you saying to your employees, “I trust you,” by allowing them to manage their own time, but you are also taking away added stress such as child care considerations from working parents. Just make sure you manage this sort of flexibility with open communication and by outlining clear expectations and parameters.