Modern life is full of stress. Pandemic, digitization, remote work, and rise in the scale of operations – both at the office and at home are the reasons for today’s rising employee stress. Why do people experience stress you ask? That’s a good question! We human beings love to have control over things and situations. The moment we lose control, we start experiencing stress and whatnot. 😛 Since there is no escape from stress in this modern life, we need to find ways of using stress productively and of course focus on reducing dysfunctional stress that does us no good. Did you know? 36% of U.S. workers suffer from workplace stress and it costs U.S. businesses $30 billion a year in lost workdays (Harvard Gazette). So as a leader, how can you reduce employee stress so that they perform their very best?
5 Ways to help reduce employee stress
1. Listen to your employees with all your heart
To help reduce employee stress – you first need to understand the root cause of it. And to determine this root cause – you need to listen to them wholeheartedly with genuine interest and care.
In other words, focus on your people, see how they are doing and determine if they need your support. Helping them gain control over their work situation itself will help reduce their work stress to a very great extent. Not just that, you can further improve your employees’ sense of control and reduce employee stress by enriching, enlarging, and expanding their jobs to provide greater responsibility and decision-making authority.
How to do that, you ask? It’s simple! Provide your people sufficient support to help them adapt to change. And you can do this by allowing your employees to participate in all organizational activities, including – decisions about changes in work practices and in the organizational structure. Create a workspace where they feel free to express their opinions and air their complaints. Trust them and gain their trust in return.
Consult your employees about scheduling and work rules. Give them opportunities to participate in decisions that affect their jobs. And ensure the assigned workload aligns well with each of their abilities and resources at hand. Avoid giving unrealistic deadlines and goals that are impossible to achieve.
Bottom line: Listen, listen, and listen to your employees! And believe me, this will give you insights that you possibly wouldn’t have imagined.
2. Break the uncertainty cycle – encourage open communication
Did you know that lack of communication or poor communication is the number 1 source of employee stress? Simply put, employee stress has very little to do with their actual work but more to do with the uncertainty surrounding their work project as a whole. Like – Is this allowed? Should I do this or is it the work of another department? To whom should I send this file in case of the assigned person’s absence? etc…
Simple as they may sound, these tiny instances have the potential to take employee’s stress to another level. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to check on your people and see everyone has the information and support they need. This initiative itself can help reduce employee stress to a great extent.
Implement an open-door policy. In other words, encourage your employees to reach out to you or the leadership team with questions and concerns that can help ease their uncertainty. Here are some ways you can do it:
- Share sufficient information with your employees consistently to reduce uncertainty about their jobs and future
- Define and explain employees’ roles and responsibilities clearly. That is, ensure your employees understand what’s expected of them so they aren’t stressing out about something that’s actually irrelevant to them
- Establish channels or means to make communication friendly and efficient. Create an environment where employees feel free to voice their concerns and thoughts
3. Provide work benefits and other support
Now that you have listened to their concerns, established open communication – the next step would be to see how you can help or support them.
Does the majority of your workforce comprise working parents and do they need flexible working hours? Has somebody lost their loved one and is still coping with the loss? The office has re-opened but some are requesting to extend work-from-home since they have elders and kids who equally need their attention?
These are all great stress-inducing instances that can affect your employee productivity and efficiency. So, it’s important for you to have a heart-to-heart dialogue with your employees and see how you can help them cope with these instances within the framework of your work policy. Be they flexible work schedules/arrangements, work-from-home policy, availing paid leaves, offering remote work tools, or the technical support they need to get their work done faster and better, etc.
Most importantly, show your people that every employee is valued and appreciated in your organization. And that their hard work will never go unnoticed. How do you do that? Simple! Offer rewards and incentives. Praise good work performance, both verbally and in writing, through programs such as Employee of the Month, Employee Awards, etc.
Last but not the least, provide opportunities for their career and personal growth. You can do this by promoting an “entrepreneurial” work climate. That is, giving your employees more control over their work, and also coaching/mentoring them to succeed.
4. Encourage your employees to strike a work-life balance
Another great reason for employee stress is having a poor work-life balance.
Are your employees working for more than 9 hours? Are they not taking enough breaks? Is work meddling with their personal and family time?
As an organization, it may not be mandatory to look into the above instances but it’s critical you pay attention to them with utmost seriousness. Because your employee’s physical and mental health is proportional to their work performance, efficiency, and productivity!
Do you want a workforce that’s super productive and efficient? Then you have to invest in their well-being!
Here’s, how you can do that:
- Encourage social activity. Provide opportunities for social interaction among employees. Since employees spend a lot of time together – the more comfortable they are, the less stress they will feel. Plus, it will help break the communication barrier and fuel smooth collaboration across
- Embrace a zero-tolerance policy for harassment and unethical work practices
- Establish social support networks. This can help reduce personal vulnerability to stress effects. Also, you can enhance social support by promoting cohesive workgroups and by training your managers to show empathy and concern for their team members
- Implement wellness and physical fitness programs to help them change their unhealthy lifestyle and improve their overall physical and mental health. By enhancing their physical and emotional well-being, your employees become less vulnerable to the effects of stress
- Offer paid time off. Encourage them not only to take breaks in between their work but also to take some time off from work so that they can relax, rejuvenate, and come back to work less stressed – with energy like never before
- Last but not the least, bring some diversions into the office. Organize fun activities or bring in a few leisure games that your employees would enjoy and love to play, like – ping pong table, foosball, board games, etc. If you are working remotely, there are tons of virtual games out there that you can incorporate. Remember, the team that plays together works better together. Plus it’s a great stress reliever. But note, if your employees have a lot of work to finish, these activities can be a source of additional stress. So, it’s always a good idea to consult them before organizing such events.
5. Implement counseling programs
A recent study revealed – the majority of the employees felt they needed help in learning how to cope with stress. Yes, we are talking about counseling programs.
If your employees are feeling immense stress that you feel is beyond your capacity to support, it’s best to implement counseling programs with professional counselors to support your employees. Many companies today are already providing counseling services to help their employees cope with stress. What about you?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, 29 to 40% of Americans report being “extremely stressed at work.” And this percentage is only getting bigger every day. Employee stress is a serious deal and the sooner you cater to it, the better for your employees and organization. Because stress-free employees make up a happy organization that’s productive, efficient, and successful. Hope the above tips will help you reduce employee stress. If you have anything to add on, feel free to share it with us by dropping a comment.