Much research has pointed to the fact that stress is the silent killer in the workplace. High levels of stress and anxiety have all been linked to a potentially increased risk of conditions such as depression, increased blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, strokes and diabetes. It is therefore becoming vital that organisations not only take steps to tackle work related causes of stress but also adopt measures to promote the physical, emotional and mental well-being of their employees.
While some stress in the workplace is normal and can help to create the focus and energy required to meet business challenges, it becomes an issue when it is excessive, ongoing and ignored. Stressed employees are less productive, often absent, more likely to make mistakes, underperform and be considered as a non team player and further isolated.
Some of the common causes of workplace stress include:
Fear of losing your job
Excessive workloads and overtime
Lack of support from managers and colleagues
Pressure to always perform at an optimum level
Anxiety over what is expected
Change and the uncertainty and insecurity this might bring
Limited career prospects
Whilst no organisation can remove all stress, it is necessary to understand the stress triggers in your workplace environment and the impact they have on the well being of your employees.
Creating a healthy workplace environment need not be costly or difficult. Adopt these 13 simple yet powerful methods to reduce stress and anxiety in your workplace:
Lead by example
The first step to lowering workplace stress is to act as a positive role model. Work related stress is often caused by how staff are managed and communicated with. So lead by example and provide your organisation’s leaders with the tools to demonstrate calm behaviour in challenging situations, manage conflict in a positive and constructive way and have an open dialogue with their team. Most importantly ensure your leaders take time to de-stress, take regular breaks and demonstrate a good work life balance that tells your employees it’s okay to make time for themselves.
Encourage Healthy Eating
Healthy living is one of the best ways to combat stress and whilst you cannot do much about your employee’s nutritional choices you can promote healthy eating and take steps to make it easier for employees to make a healthy choice. Keep a supply of healthy snacks and a bowl of fresh fruit in break out and meeting areas. Ensure that employees are not skipping lunch breaks because they are too busy. Research has shown that employees feel valued when they think their company is looking out for their health.
Water plays a vital role in how we function and it is essential to living a healthy life. Drinking water regularly helps flush out the body’s toxins, keep it hydrated and increases oxygen in the body to help us focus and concentrate. Headaches and migraines, which can be a sign of stress, are often caused by dehydration. Encourage employees to have a water bottle on their desk and provide easy access to water for refills. Always have water available in meeting rooms and keep a jug of fresh water in the fridge. If budgets allow install a drinking water cooler system.
Regular exercise not only battles the ill effects of sitting at a desk all day and being sedentary but it is an excellent way to elevate moods and overcome stress. Encourage your employees to build physical activity into their day. Try holding walking meetings, display simple stretching exercises that can be done in your workplace and encourage the use of stairs over elevators. You can even look to set up a wellness challenge with exercise goals for your employees to strive towards or perhaps organise a healthy competitive team game at a local sports facility or a lunchtime running club. Exercise will allow your employees to blow off steam, lift their mood and increase energy levels so that they return to the task at hand with a renewed focus and a sharper mind.
Regular breaks can relieve muscle tension and eyes train whilst restoring concentration levels and re-energising the mind. But for many employees, putting their work on hold to consciously take time out seem
s counter intuitive. It is important to encourage employees to take regular breaks from their desk, leave their phone behind and disengage with technology. Even a five-minute break can reduce stress, improve efficiency and increase productivity.
Having a clean and comfortable workspace for your employees is paramount to general health. It can be demotivating and a distraction if the office is unhygienic, dirty or cluttered. Ensure that all employees keep a tidy workplace and that communal areas are regularly cleaned. Try to create a calming workspace that is open, light and promotes interaction between employees. If space permits create a chill out area for employees to take time out and de-stress. Looking after your employee’s environment will increase their enjoyment of being in the workplace and most importantly shows that you care about their wellbeing.
Encourage Work-Life Balance –
Overworked and overtired employees are no use to anyone and counterproductive to getting the job done. Strive to promote a good work-life balance through periodically checking that employees are taking their holiday time, encouraging those who consistently work late to wrap things up and head home and allowing flexi time and remote working. Trusting your employees to manage and control their work schedule is good for morale, productivity and can reduce stress levels.
Adopt a Workplace Wellness Programme
Promoting good workplace wellbeing makes good business sense and a place to start is to have an employee wellbeing strategy that demonstrates to employees that you have their physical, emotional and mental well being at the core of your organisation. If budgets allow, implementing an employee wellbeing programme will allow your organisation to manage and reduce stress levels, create employee loyalty and a commitment from all to a positive work-life balance.
Give Recognition and Reward
Having a clear and demonstrable reward system is one of the best known methods to motivate and incentivise employees. Knowing their achievements will be recognised will boost confidence and commitment to your organisation’s success. Rewards can range from simply acknowledging employee efforts in front of their peers and managers or praising outstanding performance in a company wide email, through to employee of the month or year awards or financial reward and bonuses. However you choose to praise and recognise efforts, it will build a happier workforce and lower stress levels.
Promote team building and stress busting activities
Improving communications within and between teams and encouraging them to support and learn from one another can help employees bond, put aside any differences and manage conflict, alleviate feelings of isolation and create a happy and positive workplace environment. Encourage social activities through team lunches, nights out or away days or arrange office based activities such as inviting in an interesting speaker, a board game tournament or office bake off. Be creative with team building. But remember it is not the activity you choose that is important but rather the opportunity you provide to enable employees to collaborate and build positive relationships, and ultimately have some fun that will help alleviate stress and anxieties.
Communicate with your employees
One of the biggest causes of stress for employees is a lack of clarity and uncertainty around their role and responsibilities and the future direction of your organisation and their career within it. Eliminate the unknown through transparency. Be open and honest in your communications. Share what is going on in your business, have a clear leadership structure and hire efficient managers who adopt good channels of communication with their team members. An organisation that has an open door policy and encourages good communication builds a sense of trust between its employees, and is more likely to create a safe and positive environment where concerns, ideas and thoughts are shared respectfully to create a healthy company culture.
Offer a solid benefits package
A good company benefits package can be a key differentiator when competing to attract and retain the best people. Offering benefits and perks to your employees need not always be costly and should be considered as an investment in your workforce that will reap the rewards of loyalty and commitment to your organisation. Health insurance is probably the most expensive benefit but it is also the one that is most sought after by potential employees, and recent research shows it is a priority benefit to millennials. Access to affordable medical help, will in itself relieve stress in your workplace. Other attractive perks to include in your benefits package are flexible work schedules, generous holiday allowances, access to counselling and support schemes and discounted gym membership.
Ask your employees
One of the most difficult challenges to overcoming stress in the workplace is recognising that it exists in the first place. Stress can manifest itself in different ways and your employees will have different ways of managing it. Implement a staff survey asking your employees how they like to relax and de-stress. This can generate some simple methods that can be adopted in the workplace, such as listening to music or a mindfulness session or a visit from a massage therapist. It is also important to regularly hold one to one sessions with employees to gauge how they are doing, identify any feelings of stress and what could be done to better their work life. Ensure they feel listened to and understood and work together to put a plan in place to improve their physical, emotional and mental wellbeing.
Combating stress in the workplace is not easy but it can be done and the impact it will have on employee well-being can transform your business. The House of Balance coaching team can help you convert any nerves, fears and worries amongst your workforce into enjoyment, excitement and positive energy to create an organisation that is creative, productive and a healthy, fun place to work.