10 Ways Employers Can Reduce Stress in the Workplace
Stressed-out workers aren’t good for anyone. When employees experience too much stress in the workplace, they may resign, fall ill very often, or become less productive. Employers can do quite a few things to help counteract workplace stress and anxiety.
Employers can reduce stress in the workplace by communicating effectively, setting deadlines, and encouraging excellent mental and physical health. They can also remain flexible with their employees, offer incentives, and give praise. It’s important for employers to seek new ways to reduce stress.
Let’s explore several ways that employers can reduce that amount of stress in the workplace, and discover why employee stress levels are vital to everyone’s health and success.
Why Should Employers Reduce Stress in the Workplace?
In 2019, a staggering 94% of American workers reported experiencing some amount of stress while at work. This massive percentage is a tell-tale symptom of work fatigue, burnout, and demanding schedules. Still, while many workers attempt to find ways to reduce their stress, it’s also important for employers to remember that they can also help relieve stress in the workplace.
When supervisors and managers are actively involved in keeping the workplace as relaxed and positive as possible, the entire team benefits. When workers are stressed out, anxious, and unhappy, they’re bound to experience a wide range of physical symptoms, including:
- Sinus Congestion
- Weight Gain
- Decreased Short-Term Memory
These issues can become significant problems. Not only will workers miss work more frequently due to illness, but they’ll also need to spend more of their wages on health-related expenses. Employers suffer by having to reduce their efficiency and pace to accommodate sick employees.
Keeping your business productive and your employees healthy and motivated is crucial to achieving continued success. Fortunately, there are several ways employers can reduce stress in the workplace. By employing a wide range of methods and techniques, any manager can ensure that their workers feel fit and friendly.
Practice Meaningful Communication
Communication is key to any meaningful relationship, and that includes the relationship between employers and employees. By establishing and maintaining consistent and meaningful communication, you can avoid many potential pitfalls. Regular communication ensures that workers understand their roles and what is expected of them and can even boost their morale.
Employer-employee communication is also important for administrative reasons. Work-related health care plans and upcoming workplace changes should always be effectively communicated to all members of the team. Failing to do so results in potentially damaging miscommunication as some parties may wonder why they were not also informed of changes and updates to policy or procedure.
Employers may also notice a decline in work quality if standards are not effectively and efficiently communicated. When products or services require additional time for editing or reworking, clients may feel dissatisfied and take their business elsewhere.
As an employer, it can be tempting to transfer the stress of a lost client to employees, resulting in a cyclical stress pattern. When employers expose their anger or frustration, they can cause employees to feel far more anxious, stressed, or hopeless. This hinders their ability to do work correctly and at an acceptable pace, causing the employer to experience more anger and lose more clients.
The best way to prevent this situation from occurring is to communicate effectively with all employees. You can choose to invest in a software or platform that allows for open communication via messaging, emails, or an instant chat interface. You could also choose to host meetings consistently or hire a service app that workers can access.
If you’re unsure about the best means of effective and meaningful communication among employers and employees, it might be helpful to consider your workforce and industry. If you work with remote employees, a software-based system might be the most advantageous option.
However, if you run a restaurant, an app-based communication system might be far more capable and accessible. You may also consider polling your employees and asking which form of communication they prefer. Doing so is a fantastic way of opening up to employees and allowing for a meaningful and impactful conversation.
No matter which communication method you choose, you should be able to set viewable deadlines for specific tasks via your chosen software or system. Doing this will help boost productivity and ensure that your expectations are unwaveringly clear.
Set Reasonable Deadlines
Employers may already be familiar with setting deadlines for tasks. However, setting a deadline is not the only aspect to consider when assigning work to employees. It’s also important to communicate this deadline as early as possible so that workers can plan, anticipate, and successfully meet that expectation.
Deadlines that are set too close to the present moment may cause undue stress. Alternatively, deadlines that are set for the distant future can be forgotten over time, resulting in sudden anxiety after their passing. It may take trial and error to figure out the best medium between these two extremes.
The key is setting deadlines that allow the worker to complete their task without feeling rushed. It’s also essential to ensure that you name the exact day and time you expect the work to be completed. Checking in with the employee as the work is not always necessary, but in some cases may help facilitate honest communications about the status of various projects.
Either way, consistent updates that lead up to a final due date tend to work well. Should you notice that any employee is struggling to promptly complete their work (or to the quality you expect), communication is crucial. Explaining what errors were committed can help an employee better their productivity and work quality.
Still, it can also be helpful to be slightly flexible with deadlines (if possible). Strictly imposed deadlines can be challenging for some types of workers, who may require more flexible timelines and work schedules.
Allowing your employees to submit work or services on a flexible schedule may not seem profitable or ideal. And this tip may not apply to every business or employer. However, if it can be applied to your workplace, you may notice some particular advantages.
Workers that enjoy a flexible schedule often experience a wide range of benefits, including:
- Greater job satisfaction
- Decreased stress
- Improved mental and physical health
- More time with family
Employers inherently benefit from satisfied employees. Workers who enjoy their careers and workflow aren’t likely to resign, leading to less turnover within the company. Besides, remote workers generate zero commute pollution or cost. Employees don’t need a vehicle to attend meetings or submit work when they’re working from home on a flexible schedule.
In-office flexible schedules can also function quite well, depending on the business. Enterprises involving multiple clients and due dates can benefit from employing workers that function on flexible schedules. The crucial aspect here is pacing the employees to ensure that they’re able to complete the expected amount of work before it’s overdue and the client is upset.
Being flexible with your employees and allowing for fairly flexible schedules and workflow is an excellent way to reduce stress in the workplace. Still, encouraging physical health may be a more suitable alternative for your business or team.
Encourage Physical Health
The healthier your workforce is, the fewer sick days they’ll take. When all members of your team are consistently present and accounted for, your business is naturally bound to become more productive and efficient.
Encouraging physical health in the workplace is essential. Many employees spend the majority of their waking weekday hours in the office, commuting to work, or working remotely. If these workers are sedentary for several hours every day, for weeks and months and years on end, they may develop a wide range of health conditions.
If employers do not encourage healthy diets and adequate exercise, they may notice that their employees are more at risk of developing issues related to sedentary lifestyles. These potential problems include:
- Cardiovascular Disease
- High Blood Pressure
Remaining seated and still for long periods daily can also increase the risk for certain types of cancers. Because employees typically spend more than 40 hours working every week, it’s crucial to encourage excellent physical health and potentially help prevent the above issues from occurring.
Employers can choose to implement a wide range of beneficial health-focused programs, including wellness programs and increased workplace healthcare benefits. It may also be advantageous to offer health-driven incentives that all members of the staff can participate in.
Work-funded or work-related events that may have once taken place at restaurants or bars could become opportunities to do team-building fun-runs, community clean-ups, or other exercise-oriented projects. Not only will these activities function to help your employees become fitter individuals, but it will also help them work together and achieve team-based goals.
While it may seem counterintuitive to imagine that investing additional funds into your employee’s health programs can save you money, it can do just that. When workers have greater access to healthcare, they tend to fall ill less often, resulting in an overall saving on behalf of the employer.
The choice of which programs and incentives to use is completely at your discretion. However, it’s vital to pick a variety of health-driven activities and programs and measure their effectiveness and reception. This approach will help you implement actions that best benefit your employees and your business.
After all, a company can only succeed when all of its components work together as part of a focused team. While one-on-one interaction can be helpful when giving praise or criticism to an individual employee, maintaining a focus on the team effort can help ensure that all employees understand their roles, assignments, and how they need to work together.
Put Emphasis on the Team
There is hardly a successful business today that thrives on a single person’s efforts and achievements. Every company requires the work and focus of multiple individuals to flourish and grow, and it’s imperative to remember that when dealing with workplace stress.
One person’s anguish can quickly become an entire team’s anger and frustration. Placing emphasis on teamwork and the team mentality can help ensure that individuals do not fall behind or feel left out. It can also help reinforce workplace roles and responsibilities, minimizing stress on the entire workforce.
Allocating a supervisor or manager for each team ensures that all members have a nearby coworker to report to, ask questions to, and gain training from. The supervisor should have patience, a sense of responsibility, and always be leaders within their team.
When employees feel comfortable turning to their leaders for guidance, the entire workforce runs more smoothly. When managers create an ambiance of teamwork, all members of the team feel as though their work is a meaningful contribution to the overall whole. The result is less stress, greater focus, and improved productivity.
While all teams should work together to support a company, it’s not a bad idea to occasionally hold team-based competitions that help encourage inter-team cooperation. As an employer, you could also choose to switch this up and have members from diverse teams working together toward common goals. This can be done via workshops and retreats, or with the use of workplace incentives.
Teamwork and incentives often go hand-in-hand; it’s a great idea to motivate employees by offering certain rewards or prizes. You could even choose to hold team-focused competitions with specific prizes for all members of the team.
Let’s face it—even with the most exciting or extreme job, things can get boring and a little tiresome after a while. Being asked to call an upset client and or negotiate a deal for what feels like the millionth time can generate stress and lead to feelings of depression or anger. Employers can help quell this tedium by offering incentives.
Workplace incentives can range from a pair of movie tickets to a three-day cruise. Employers have the final say as to the prize and rules of any particular workplace competition. Still, you may be amazed to see the increase in productivity when employees have a specific short-term goal to work toward. However, incentives are not without their challenges.
The primary challenge in offering workplace incentives is ensuring that all individuals have a fair chance of earning them. Setting a goal that could only be achieved by the accounting team may upset other employees who’d also like a chance at winning a lucrative prize. Therefore, it may be wise to divide your incentive into different groups.
All teams may be eligible to win a certain “grand prize” based on hours worked or quality of work completed. Specific teams may be eligible to win prizes based on their specific responsibilities and duties. For example, the most productive and effective advertising agent might win a gift card to their favorite restaurant.
But the overall most hard-working employee in the company might earn a weekend trip to the Bahamas. In this way, team members have multiple goals to work toward and a few potential incentives to keep them motivated. Incentives may also help lower turnover rates and build relationships among staff.
In addition to incentives, employers can also implement proper praise and encouragement. When combined, these two techniques are bound to help lower workplace stress levels.
Give Praise and Encouragement
Too often, it can become easy to get wrapped up in the bottom line and forget to praise your employees for their efforts. This is especially true during both times of hardship and great success. Employers can forget to take the time to reward the hard work that is either keeping them afloat or helping them reach new heights.
Forgetting to give praise and encouragement when it’s due is a huge mistake. It can leave employees feeling underutilized and underappreciated, resulting in a decline in work productivity. One unappreciated employee can quickly become an entire team of upset workers, which is a significant problem.
Alternatively, team members who feel encouraged and purposefully praised are more likely to continue their hard work and double-down on difficult tasks. Those who feel that they have the chance to rise within a company are more likely to put in the effort to do so, and employers should remember this.
Just as offering incentives can help boost employee morale and productivity, so can giving praise and encouragement. Of course, it’s important to praise employees that often go the extra mile and to encourage those that may be struggling to meet demands and deadlines. This practice will ensure that your compliments are not hollow and insincere.
You could choose to explore some praising strategies to find techniques that work best for your managing style and business. Hopefully, you’ll be able to take advantage of these methods to help your workforce experience less stress and more job fulfillment.
Resolve Conflicts Privately
As an employer, it is your job to set an example concerning workplace disputes. While it can be tempting to “make an example” of an under-performing employee, this type of behavior is not acceptable. It is likely to generate massive amounts of stress within your workforce.
It’s crucial to handle all conflicts privately and professionally, which often means inviting employees to speak with you or other managers in a quiet, enclosed area. This technique is incredibly helpful when dealing with workplace disputes involving multiple employees.
It allows you to gain testimony from all involved parties and make an informed decision concerning the best course of forward action. Resolving conflicts privately also allows you to minimize any shame or embarrassment experienced by any individual employees.
Keeping matters as professional and civil as possible often requires a soft touch. As an employee, it is crucial to always keep your voice low when addressing personal matters or disputes. It is also essential to remain as passive and understanding as possible while actively listening to your employee’s complaints or testimony.
Not only will this technique ensure that your employees feel heard, but it will also help keep tense situations from escalating. Workplace disputes are occasionally unavoidable, even with the most positive and effective workplace culture and communication. How you as an employer decide to handle these issues will help set the tone and pace for future conflicts.
If in doubt, always separate disputing parties and speak to each one privately. It is a respectful and professional way to handle workplace conflicts. Of course, tensions among coworkers are often the result of environmental factors, including excess noise. Providing quiet areas around your workplace can help curb mounting tensions.
Offer Quiet Workplace Spaces
Those who employ restaurant workers may not be able to make this tip work, but many other types of employers could benefit from investing in quiet workplace spaces for their employees. Quiet, peaceful workspaces help reduce distractions and keep workers focused on their tasks. They may also help employees feel less confined or restricted while in the office.
The result of both of these positive aspects is higher productivity. It’s also worthwhile to note just how much environmental factors impact our ability to work efficiently. It can be easy to take a quiet office for granted until construction begins next door. The jarring sound of consistently loud work or traffic can impede an employee’s ability to focus and complete work on-time.
Quiet workspaces encourage fewer distractions, reducing the amount of stress workers experience due to environmental noise. Employers can provide their workforce with quiet workplaces in a variety of ways. Some of the most popular include:
- Renting or purchasing a work area that is open enough to allow for multiple desks
- Investing in a building that has multiple rooms and offices, each with solid walls and doors
- Purchasing a massive amount of temporary walling to can shield some some
- Outfitting their building with sound-blocking vinyl panels and commercial acoustics materials
Each of these potential solutions has specific advantages and disadvantages. Choosing the right one for your space and business depends on your building status (rent or own), space size, budget, and preferences. Sound-blocking panels tend to be the most cost-effective and efficient solutions, especially for small spaces.
However, larger work areas may be able to reduce sound pollution simply by relying on taller ceilings and less crowded spaces. No matter which solution you choose for your company, the benefits of a quiet workspace should not be underestimated or forgotten. A more productive, less stressful team of employees may only be a few fewer decibels away.
But while excess noise can prove distracting, quiet spaces alone won’t help workers be their best selves and reduce their stress levels. In many cases, employing mental health tools is crucial to keeping a workforce motivated and healthy.
Provide Mental Health Tools
While mental health was once considered a topic relegated only to most extreme cases, it is now more obvious than ever that poor mental health can strike nearly anyone, at any time of their life. In 2017, approximately 1 out of every 5 American adults reported having a mental illness.
As such, it’s vital to be aware that some of your employees may be struggling to cope with a mental disorder or condition that could inhibit their ability to complete work expectedly. In these cases, punishment is only likely to aggravate the issue and lead to a series of misunderstandings and miscommunications.
Unfortunately, many workers may choose not to report a mental illness to their employer. There is still a heavy stigma surrounding mental health, and some may fear ridicule or retribution after sharing their health issues with an employer. Due to this need for privacy, many individuals also choose not to seek counseling or therapy.
Employers can help turn this situation around in many ways. They could offer discounted therapy or counseling services to their employees or healthcare coverage that allows for affordable mental health screenings. Employers may also want to consider organizing recurrent workshops that focus on self-care and mental health.
Depending on the type of business or workplace, it may also be a good idea to provide free health assessment tools (such as brochures, pamphlets). Training supervisors and managers to look for and be able to identify signs of stress or exhaustion is also a critical aspect of providing mental health tools to workers.
When the entire team is physically healthy and mentally fit, employees are more likely to engage with one another effectively and be more productive. The overall result is a happier, less stressful workplace that consistently attracts competitive candidates and clients.
Now you’re familiar with nearly a dozen different ways employers can reduce stress in the workplace. Everything starts with meaningful and consistent communication, but setting reasonable deadlines and being somewhat flexible is also fairly crucial. Of course, employers should strive to encourage exceptional physical health and put an emphasis on teamwork.
Offering incentives can help reduce stress levels, as can offering praise and encouragement. When employees fail to meet standards or deadlines, it’s essential to solve those conflicts privately and prevent undue embarrassment. Lastly, employers could attempt to offer quiet, comfortable workplace areas and plenty of mental health information.
Richard A. Lehman, LMT, CSCS
- Business Management Daily: Setting deadlines for employees: 4 do’s and Don’ts
- Field Service Digital: 6 Business Impacts of Poor Communication In the Workplace
- Houston Chronicle: The Advantages of Incentive Plans
- Mayo Clinic: Mental health: Overcoming the stigma of mental illness
- The National Institute of Mental Health Information Resource Center: Mental Illness
- : The 9 Elements of Highly Effective Employee Praise
- ScienceDirect: Benefits of quiet workspaces in open-plan offices – Evidence from two office relocations
- The American Institute of Stress: 42 Worrying Workplace Stress Statistics
- Proactive MD: The Impact of Healthy Employees in the Workplace
- The balance careers: The Pros and Cons of a Flexible Work Schedule
- Wellness Council of America: The Benefits of Stress Management for Employees
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