Employee well-being in the workplace is becoming a top priority for businesses everywhere. Companies often look first to stress management initiatives to help improve workplace well-being, and for good reason. According to the American Institute of Stress, 80 percent of workers feel stressed on the job and 40 percent felt their job was either very or extremely stressful.
A little stress now and then is actually good for you. Some stress can lead to growth, like stressing your muscles by lifting weights. But the kind of stress being discussed here can cause serious problems. In fact, workplace stress may be damaging your workers’ health, slowing productivity, and costing you money.
How Does Stress Manifest in the Workplace?
Employees may hesitate to admit that they’re stressed for fear of repercussions. There are, however, a number of signs that your workers are dealing with serious stress levels.
Disengagement From Work
Has a normally chatty employee suddenly fallen silent? When people are stressed or burnt out, they tend to withdraw. Less participation in meetings, less small talk, and just generally less engagement with the workplace can all be signs of stress.
More Calls Off
People dealing with chronic stress often suffer from physical health problems as a result. High blood pressure and a diminished immune system are just two of many conditions that stress can cause or exacerbate. Increased job stress leads to increased calls off work, which can damage productivity and drive up insurance costs.
More than anything, high stress affects the quality of work produced by employees. Think about the last time you were severely stressed. It was probably hard to do anything but worry about how stressed you felt! Stress is a distraction that can extinguish an employee’s ability to do their best work.
How Does Stress Affect Resilience?
Stress in the workplace can also affect the resilience of both employees and the organization itself.
Obstacles Are Threatening and Harder To Overcome
Obstacles and setbacks are a normal part of doing business. Bouncing back from them, however, can be easier said than done if your organization lacks resilience. If employees are stressed to begin with, something going wrong is only going to make the stress—and the problems stress causes—that much worse.
Moreover, stressed-out employees may not even have the resilience to tackle a difficult situation or an obstacle in the first place.
Everyone’s Too Tired To Regulate Themselves
When young children are tired and stressed, they sometimes throw temper tantrums. They scream, cry, and may even lash out in frustration. They become overwhelmed and unable to control their emotions.
Adults aren’t usually this intense with their big feelings but, when stress runs high, emotional regulation becomes much harder. Stressed employees might lash out in their own way, which can lead to unnecessary confrontation and—in some extreme cases—workplace violence.
Pessimism Becomes a Self-fulfilling Prophecy
Stressed employees tend to be short on hope for the future. It can be hard to believe that less stressful days are coming. That pessimism seeps into everything they do, leading to lower-quality work and diminished productivity. The company as a whole begins to suffer in turn, thus fulfilling the employees’ expectations that they were doomed to fail from the start.
How Can Workplace Leaders Mitigate Stress?
Keeping stress levels down at work is obviously important. But where do you start? What can managers or HR leaders do to help with stress in the workplace? How can they help build more resilience into the organization?
Keep Communication Lines Open
Especially now as remote and hybrid work is becoming the norm, clear and open communication is vital. Employees need to know exactly what you expect of them and what you’re thinking. They also need regular praise and encouragement; performing thankless tasks for too long is an easy way to burn out.
Encourage Restorative Time Off
It may feel counter-intuitive, but encouraging your employees to disconnect from work is the fastest and easiest way to reenergize your employees and boost their motivation. People need time away from work to recharge themselves, physically and emotionally. Hard to believe as it may be, idle time is good for productivity. Make sure your employees are taking time off to rest!
Model the Change You Want To See in the Workplace
Employees will hesitate to do anything they’ve never seen their managers do. They need to know it’s okay to take vacation time or set up email auto-responders for their deep work hours. If you’re a leader who wants to see structural changes in your organization, they have to start with you.
Offer Peer Mentoring and Coaching Services
One major stressor for employees is feeling disconnected from their workplace. New hires who don’t know anyone, the bashful or introverted, and remote workers, in particular, are all susceptible to slipping through the cracks. Isolating an employee is the easiest way to stress them out.
That’s why peer mentoring and coaching can be so beneficial. Pairing up employees with a “buddy” to help show them around and introduce them to colleagues can be a great way to help integrate people into the company culture. Plus, mentors can offer valuable feedback and insight to colleagues, strengthening the quality of work overall while also reducing workplace stress.