Have you ever had a song stuck in your head? You can't get it out, and somehow it messes up your ability to hear or remember any other song?
The same applies to workplace stress. It easily becomes an incessant thought that influences your judgment and seeps into every other task.
This type of work environment contributes to employee turnover and burnout, but companies don’t have to operate this way It’s completely avoidable! Here are eight best practices you can institute at your organization to help reduce everyone’s stress levels.
What's Workplace Stress?
Workplace stress results from pressure and demands placed on employees, such as time constraints, workloads, job roles, management issues, and interpersonal relationships. It can lead to physical and psychological health problems, including exhaustion, increased blood pressure, anxiety, depression, headaches, and sleep disorders.
Stress isn’t just bad for employees’ health, it’s bad for business.Two out of three stressed employees experience disengagement, lack of focus, and loss of motivation, which can lower your business’ productivity and performance.
- Clear Communication
Effective communication matters at every level of an organization, whether you’re talking about an internal C-suite newsletter or daily chat between coworkers. Whereas poor communication can cause employee stress, direct and open communication helps create a safe and trusting environment. It helps everyone be on the same page, understand expectations, and effectively work through issues when they arise. This means good communication avoids and alleviates stress, which is a powerful dual impact.
There are many approaches you can use to improve communication within your organization. The best approach will always be the one that works with your team’s needs, so here are a few communication initiatives you can try:
- Set-up regular team meetings to keep everyone in the loop.
- Use asynchronous tools, like Slack, with open channels to share information.
- Create and share follow-up notes after meetings.
- Schedule one-to-one meetings with each employee.
- Empower employees to raise their concerns with weekly “open hour” Zoom meetings with the leadership team.
- Send out a weekly newsletter with company information, employee wins, and any information on upcoming events.
- Promoting Workplace Wellness
Wellness programs are a great tool in the fight against workplace stress as they actively enable employees to unwind and take care of themselves. This helps your staff reduce their current stress levels, and helps them have the emotional capacity to better handle stress when it does occur.
There are dozens of ways you can go about supporting workplace wellness. Your organization can offer gym subscriptions, host smoking cessation programs, hold a workplace steps challenge, or bring fitness professionals in for exercise classes. And don’t forget mental wellbeing — companies can support this vital aspect of employee health with subscriptions to meditation apps, cover the cost of therapy or counseling programs, or expand your time off policies to be unlimited or include sabbaticals.
- Facilitating Socialization
Social activities help employees connect on a personal level, strengthening relationships with their coworkers. Apart fromwork friendships making employees happier, they make jobs less stressful and more fun. Studies have found that three in five employees agree having a “work best friend” makes their job more enjoyable.
Team-building activities can take place during normal work hours, like group lunches or virtual escape rooms, outside of the business day with fitness challenges, happy hours, or all-team offsites. (If you’re planning team activities outside of normal business hours, consider offering childcare support or making events family-friendly so you don’t end up adding stress for employees with childcare responsibilities.)
- Encouraging Time Off
Time away from work is critical to managing stress at work: Studies have found that when employees take time off, their likelihood of job stress decreases by 56%. Time off gives employees a break from the day-to-day pressure, which they need to relax and recharge.
Creating a culture that supports taking time off will empower employees and allow them to care for their wellbeing so stress never reaches a critical point. This starts with having a company policy that permits sufficient paid time off. The next step is direct communication about the importance of taking vacations. You can share employee vacation stories during company meetings, or highlight the hobbies team members have outside of work. Making it clear that a life outside of work is encouraged can help employees feel confident stepping back for a few days at a time.
- Flexible Work Arrangements
Work flexibility is a powerful method for fighting workplace stress. Flex hours and locations allow employees to take more ownership of their time, workday, and schedule. This can help reduce stress levels, improve mental wellbeing, and increase productivity.
Changing employee work hours has been shown to decrease the likelihood of job stress by 20% (while increasing the likelihood of job satisfaction by 62%), and 96% of employees feel that work flexibility is important in a new job. And this translates into true stress reduction in the workforce: Companies with flexible work locations onlyhave 14% of employees experience burnout, compared to 36% with no work flexibility.
- Respecting Work Hours
Employees that feel the need to be in "work mode" outside working hours often feel the effects of stress in their personal life. An "always on" culture, where teams feel pressure to respond to calls and emails outside of working hours, has a negative impact on overall employee wellbeing. ANd this experience is all too common: More than half of employees say they neglect their physical and mental wellbeing because of the pressure to always be available.
Setting (and respecting) clear boundaries on work hours helps employees get the full utility out of their time off the clock. You can institute this culture by making it clear that they aren't expected to respond to notifications, emails, or chats outside their chosen working hours or on weekends.
- Reviewing Workloads
Excessive workloads are a common source of stress for employees. This happens when people are asked to juggle too many responsibilities, like balancing increasing manager demands, teamwork projects, and personal tasks.
Managers can support adequate workloads by setting aside time to review and discuss current tasks with their employees. This will help identify any tasks that can be removed or automated to lighten the load. It also serves as an opportunity to understand how employees feel and what they need to progress on their projects. These regular meetings help avoid burnout and keep employees motivated in their work.
- Setting Clear Expectations
Make sure your employees understand what results are expected of them, and that are involved in that goal-setting process. Any ambiguity leaves room for stress and doubt — nearly half of employees say that a lack of involvement in decisions contributes to their workplace stress, according to the American Psychological Association.
Transparency around workloads, deadlines, and expectations will help make sure that both the employer and employee are on the same page, with clear boundaries in place. It's also important that staffers have realistic work goals and expectations. Setting overly high standards or too many demands can lead to an overwhelming workload, causing stress levels to skyrocket. When both manager and employee agree on goals, they can set aligned expectations and manageable workloads to help prevent burnout.
Making the Workplace a Safe and Supportive
At its core, managing stress at the workplace is about taking care of your employees’ wellbeing. Stress is a signal that something is amiss, something that’s dragging them down mentally. If left unattended, this stress can degrade their health and reduce their work performance. When companies focus on improving employee wellness, these issues often disappear.
Many organizations systematize their support for employee wellness through wellbeing programs. Companies leveraging the right wellbeing strategies reap the rewards, with research showing they are more than three times as likely to engage and retain workers, and they are more than five times as likely to be able to recruit new talent.
Don't we all want a workplace where people thrive? Gympass can help you nurture a healthier and happier organization through access to thousands of fitness centers and dozens of apps. Speak to one of our wellbeing specialists to see how we can help you chart a course to workforce wellness!
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The Gympass Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.