How – and Why – Employers Must Tackle Stress In The Workplace

The modern American workplace is a stressful place. With the impulse to spent 24-hours a day checking social media, monitoring email, and staying connected to coworkers in different time zones, it can be difficult for high powered employees to leave work behind. With the pressures of keeping a business running in a tumultuous economy and on a bootstrapped budget, the urge to do everything oneself is also overwhelming.

If a company doesn’t properly manage their employee’s stress, they may see reduced performance, lowered production, and they may even find themselves managing worker’s comp claims when employees injure themselves in the workplace due to stress or exhaustion.

So what can companies do to reduce stress and create a more balanced workplace?

Make off time actual off time

When your employees log off for the day, is the expectation that they’re unreachable, or just that they’ve logged off, and when you need something, you should reach out? Of course emergencies happen, but if they happen more than once a year or so, your company most likely needs to revisit its definition of an emergency, or its problem solving strategies.

As a boss or manager, it’s important for you to set the tone in the office. Make sure that you leave work on time more often than you don’t, and make sure that you have a life outside of work. Talk about (work appropriate!) activities that you enjoy.

Provide humane time off policies

Leave time is one of the most significant needs of many employees. Whether they are caring for children or elderly relatives, making time for both work and life can be complicated. Many people end up edged out of careers that they love because they can’t keep up with the demands of both.

One way for employers to make the situation more feasible for employees is to allow flexible time off. Make it easy for employees to bring work on the road or take it home when they need to leave early in an afternoon. If a salaried employee regularly puts in the appropriate number of hours to get their job done, don’t leap to making them use vacation time to go to a doctor’s appointment.

And be generous with sick leave and employee relocation policies. Well rested, healthy employees are employees that are going to be with your company for a lot longer.

Make your workplace relaxing

Many employers think this means putting in an exercise room or a billiards table, but the answer can actually be much more simple. Talk to your employees. Find out what they want. Do they need a better fridge in the break room, or a way to make coffee in the office? Are they eager for a chance to get to know their coworkers? Or do they want a way to bring plants into the office and make the space feel more green and alive?

Making an environment comfortable and relaxing for all employees can be a lot of work, but the reduction in stress is worthwhile.

Make sure employees know why their job matters

When an employee feels like their work is meaningless, it’s unlikely that they will put a truly high level of effort into achieving the best possible work. When they understand how important their work is to an overall goal, however, they are likely to be much more committed to producing high quality work that serves the company.

This may be best achieved with regular one-on-one check in meetings, perhaps as new projects or duties are assigned. Don’t just tell people what to do, make sure they know why they’re doing it, and how it will affect the organization as a whole. It’s always possible that they’ll have a fresh new idea which will benefit the entire project – but only if they have an idea of the entire picture.

What are the benefits of reducing workplace stress?

When employers help their employees reduce stress and find work more relaxing, they tend to find:

  • Employees are more productive. When you’re stressed, you tend to take more coffee breaks, find excuses to avoid work, and call in sick when you’re just exhausted. By reducing workplace stress, employers can make sure employees feel productive and important, and want to be at work.
  • Employees do better work overall. No one does their best work when they’re stressed and frustrated. By reducing stress in the workplace, employers can focus on collaboration as well as high quality work, which can continue to reduce stress as employees come to rely on a teamwork approach, instead of feeling like they’re solely responsible for everything happening.

It’s in a business’s best interests to identify and manage workplace stressors. The company’s financials will improve, and their retention will see benefits.
What does your company do to reduce stressors in the workplace?