7 Tips to Reduce Workplace Stress
Considering that the average American worker will spend over 90,000 hours at work during their lifetime, it makes sense that employment is a significant aspect of life. Work can feel like a barometer for other aspects of a person’s lifestyle, whether they’re spending a lot of time commuting or handling extra tasks during shifts.
But when stress becomes a significant factor, it’s hard to overcome the challenges. Explore this guide to workplace stress, including its impacts and causes, along with seven tips to reduce feeling overwhelmed and burned out.
Impacts of Stress in the Workplace
Although most employees will feel stress at times, it becomes more of a problem when it’s no longer a passing feeling. If your team members are feeling bogged down, burned out, and frustrated, they can experience significant negative effects. According to the American Institute of Stress, nearly two-thirds of American workers report high stress levels, resulting in feeling out of control and extreme fatigue. By contrast, only five percent of those surveyed reported low stress levels.
Roughly a third of employees lose one hour per day or more in productivity because of the stress they experience. Over 40 percent lose 15 to 30 minutes per day, while about a quarter believe that stress has no impact on their productivity. If you add up the number of hours potentially lost during a workweek, you may see how productivity levels are on the decline. In a stressful work environment, people have trouble focusing on their tasks, resulting in poor concentration.
Stress can also impact a person’s mental and physical health. Some of the more common physical concerns linked to high stress include weight gain, anxiety, digestive troubles, high blood pressure, and even heart disease. Being around other people can also increase the risk of exposure to viruses and other contaminants that cause illness, particularly in those with weakened immune systems.
On the mental health side, depression and anxiety tend to skyrocket in response to stress. Additionally, those who are constantly stressed may have trouble sleeping, struggle to focus, and even have higher rates of absence than those with lower stress levels.
Burnout often breeds where stress is present, which can impact employee retention and satisfaction rates. If employees have severe reactions to emotional stressors in the workplace, they may feel burned out and seek employment elsewhere.
What Causes Workplace Stress?
The survey referenced above included the four most common causes of workplace stress:
- People issues
- Juggling work and personal life
- Poor job security
Identifying the specific causes of workplace stress in your organization can help the leaders make adjustments to provide better support.
Reduce Stress with 7 Tips
Now that you know what’s causing employees to feel stressed and what those feelings are doing to their mental and physical health, as well as their performance, it’s time to make some changes. Use these tips to better adhere to your employees’ needs and support them in ways that are feasible.
Work to identify stressors
It’s possible your team members are experiencing stress as the result of any of the four common stressors outlined above. But those aren’t the only situations that cause people to feel overwhelmed. Talk to members of the workforce to find out what is making them feel worried in their professional lives. Identifying stressors is the first step in figuring out how your company can reduce their impact.
Encourage focus and prioritization
For many workers, it’s common to get wrapped up in putting out fires and responding to urgent requests. But these habits make it hard to focus and prioritize what’s important, as well as to accomplish everyday responsibilities. Encourage your teams to focus on the tasks at hand and prioritize what’s most important. If needed, allow employees to turn off notifications from their email inboxes to achieve a better focus.
Look at deadlines
Deadlines can cause significant stress, especially if they’re unreasonable or unmanageable. If you’re responsible for assigning due dates, take the time to look at what employees can handle. Don’t assign arbitrary dates—choose timelines that allow those involved on projects to complete their best work. And if an urgent need does arise, provide an explanation as to why the deadline is sooner than usual.
Fill positions to support overworked employees
Oftentimes, workplace stress goes up when employees are terminated or resign from their positions. And while the remaining team members may be able to pick up the slack temporarily, it’s unfair to ask them to continue to do so indefinitely. When an employee has an extensive workload, they’re more likely to feel stressed and overwhelmed.
When someone leaves or is let go from their role, make sure to assess what they were doing. If you determine that they had a significant load, backfill the position as soon as possible to take the strain off current employees. Additionally, make sure to spread out the additional work to avoid dumping it all on one person.
Provide opportunities to disconnect and recharge
It’s essential to disconnect from work responsibilities regularly. But when someone is overloaded in their professional life, they may not feel like they can log off. This is especially problematic when team and company leaders disturb their employees when they’re trying to take time away from the workplace.
Prioritize disconnecting and recharging among all members of the team. When employees take time off, allow them to truly be away from work. Encourage those you work with to find activities that help them relax and feel happy.
Offer benefits that support work-life balance
A good work-life balance is a deterrent to workplace stress, but it’s something that can be difficult to achieve. Oftentimes, creating a positive balance between personal and professional duties starts with the company culture. If you constantly require employees to work outside of their normal shift hours or send emails at all hours of the day and night, you’re not supporting the need for balance.
Provide benefits to team members that allow them to take time away, such as paid time off and sick leave. Make sure to remain in compliance with federal leave regulations, including those mandated under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Try a screen detox
Although it’s tempting to decompress after a long day at work by catching up on a favorite show or playing a video game, the reality is that most people are spending many hours on screens. Between the eight or more hours spent on a screen at work and additional screen time after hours, you could end up logging more than you realize, which can contribute to stress. Additionally, watching shows or scrolling social media on your phone may keep you aware of any emails or work-related messages coming through, causing you to feel even more overwhelmed.
Try a detox, using down time to participate in activities that don’t require screens. Encourage your employees to do the same and model your behavior to manage your own workplace stress.
Implementing these tips and gaining a better grasp on the cause of stress in the workplace can boost your culture and provide better support to your teams. Explore our other posts on company culture, including the effects of a toxic culture and how to implement positive changes.
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