April is National Stress Awareness Month!
Consequences of too much stress within an organization may include increased turnover, spikes in health care costs, loss of valuable and productive employees, and loss of office collegiality. Employees caught managing organizational strife may individually struggle with physical or mental consequences.
“When we go to work we take along an invisible backpack containing the worries of our family life (perhaps the child who didn’t sleep, the spouse who is unhappy, or the recently diagnosed mother), and a load of our own anxieties and concerns. The backpack is heavy, made heavier so by the pressures of our jobs. When we experience unhealthy amounts of stress, we physically are not at our best.”
Katie Riker Sternberg, ICC, MSW, LMSW, MBA
Momentum Personal and Executive Coaching, LLC
Signs of Stress in the Workplace:
- Excessive workload (i.e., increase in overtime hours, work over the weekend)
- Mood swings (i.e., irritable, anxious, abnormally sensitive)
- Decrease in productivity
- Increase in absenteeism (i.e., increase in sick or personal days)
- Disengaged (i.e., less social and more secluded than normal)
- Fatigue (i.e., make more mistakes than usual)
- Job dissatisfaction
- Conflicts with bosses or coworkers
HR Strategies to Prevent Stress
1. Stress Management Coaching and Training
Adopt stress management education into your employee wellness program to educate employees on how to cope with day-to-day stressors. Executive coaching and team training are useful options, as they provide support, guidance, and resolution to stress-related problems. Have a therapist or health professional speak to your staff to provide knowledge on the effects of stress and tips to prevent them. Hold stress management workshops or schedule “Lunch and Learns” that cover topics on helping employees manage and reduce stress in their work and personal lives. Helping employees deal with stress improves engagement by contradicting things like the physical and mental damage stress can bring upon an individual.
2. Open Communication
Maintaining open communication and consultation are critical to leadership and preventing stress. Create an atmosphere where people feel it is okay to talk to management about problems they are facing. Talk with employees regularly to make sure everyone is clear about their job specifics and what is required of them. Provide clear business objectives, deadlines and expectations to make workdays more productive and less stressful. Carry out regular employee surveys to help you find any stress-related problems with individual managers or employees.
3. Flexible Schedules
The struggle to balance work and life is one of the main stressors employees face. Problems of commuting to and from work, finding time in the day to complete much-needed errands and still fit in quality time with family, personal obligations and many more challenge employees daily. Provide opportunities for employees who struggle with these daily challenges to contribute ideas on planning and organizing their own schedules. Having more control over their own schedule can boost employee morale and eliminate much of the daily workplace stressors. Encourage a healthy work-life balance by working with employees to offer flexible work arrangements, such as flexible hours, telecommuting or video conferencing, part-time work and job-sharing.
4. Value Employees
To maintain a happy, healthy and productive workplace, it is important to help employees cope with all stressors in their life, including the issues you cannot change. Try offering on-site services to employees at a discount. Services to implement might include car washes, oil changes, dry cleaning, mailing services, restaurant food delivery, eyeglass care, shoe shines, etc. Massage therapy is one of the best ways to help employees relax and relieve stress. Have a massage therapy service come to your office to offer neck and shoulder massages. Stress triggers all types of medical conditions. Provide free monthly health screenings for blood pressure or cholesterol. Programs like this can help employees identify stress-related health risks and provide knowledge of ways to improve their health. Partner up with a local gym to create weekly group exercise classes or discounts when purchasing memberships. Exercising and healthy eating can provide drastic changes in stress levels, resulting in increased productivity, energy, and inspiration to do better.
Help employees feel capable of dealing with all stressors in their lives by implementing some of the above HR strategies and maintain a happy, healthy and productive working environment.