How Stress Affects Your Team and What You Can Do About It

Stress Reduction Strategies for Forward-Thinking Companies

Stress is a common companion, especially in the workplace. After a long and difficult year dealing with a global pandemic, many professionals are feeling the strain even as they continue to work remotely.

April is Stress Awareness Month which makes it an ideal time to examine stress reduction strategies and consider implementing new policies for your organization.

Chronic stress can have a negative impact on employee health, and it could affect your business’ bottom line. Here’s what you need to know about addressing and reducing stress in the workplace.

The Impact of Stress in the Workplace

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way countless companies do business. Millions of employees have transitioned to working at home and many may continue to work remotely even as business returns to normal. Though working at home eliminates certain stressors such as the daily commute, remote work promotes an “always on” mindset that can exacerbate employee stress and lead to burnout. Unmanaged stress has serious health implications including[1]:

  • increased anxiety
  • lack of focus or motivation
  • depression
  • sleep trouble
  • headaches
  • fatigue

Stress is a mainstay of the modern human condition, but it often seems to manifest most heavily in the workplace. According to the American Institute of Stress (AIS), as many as 83 percent of U.S. workers suffer from work-related stress. Not only can work-related stress lead to missed work, but it affects workplace productivity as well.

Stress causes around one million workers to miss work every day and it results in an annual loss of up to $300 billion for U.S. businesses.[2]

5 Ways Business Leaders Can Help Reduce Stress in the Workplace

Businesses and employees alike have been forced to make countless adjustments over the past year, including a shift toward remote work. In addition to the challenge of staying productive during a pandemic, employees are faced with the task of managing their work-life balance. As a leader, you have an opportunity to provide your employees with the resources and support they need to not only do their jobs but to stay healthy while doing them.

Taking steps to reduce work-place stress can boost job satisfaction while also improving workplace productivity. Here are some suggestions:

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1. Keep the lines of communication open.

Keeping the lines of communication open and encouraging honest communication between employees and managers can facilitate trust in the workplace and may help reduce stress. Broaching subjects like workload, time off, or career growth can be stressful for employees. Making sure employees feel heard and valued goes a long way in reducing that kind of stress, so make sure your team knows that the management team is available to field questions and concerns.

2. Encourage employees to take breaks.

The typical workday revolves around a certain schedule involving regular business hours and lunch breaks. When working remotely, it can be difficult to achieve that kind of structure and many people find themselves working through lunch or keeping longer hours which can contribute to stress. Encourage your team to take breaks and make sure virtual meeting schedules have a breaktime built in. Check in with your team throughout the week to make sure they are taking breaks and encourage them to spend time outdoors when possible.

3. Offer flexible scheduling.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the shape of the typical workday, but it has also created a unique opportunity for companies to change the way they do business. Even as things return to normal, consider offering remote work as a full-time or part-time option for your employees in situations where it makes sense to do so. You might also consider offering flexible scheduling for positions that don’t depend on the typical 9-to-5 workday. Flexible scheduling can go a long way in reducing stress, especially for employees who have kids or other outside obligations.

4. Make employee appreciation an ongoing effort.

When working remotely, it can be easier to feel cut off from resources and from management, so employees may not feel as connected to the company as they did when working in-office. Make employee appreciation an ongoing effort by planning virtual or in-person activities, sending shoutout emails, and giving gifts to show your appreciation. Make an effort to acknowledge birthdays and anniversaries as well to show you value your employees.

5. Encourage employees to take advantage of mental health resources.

Mental health is just as important as physical health, but it often goes by the wayside. Make an effort to share mental health resources with your team and encourage them to take advantage of benefits. Many business professionals today leverage services like virtual therapy and online psychiatry. Consider sending out a weekly or bi-monthly email with informative articles and guides for health and wellness.

Stress is a normal human response but when stress becomes a constant it can wreak havoc on your physical and mental health. On top of the COVID-19 pandemic, countless employees have found themselves navigating the challenges of remote work and the stress is taking its toll.

Acknowledge Stress Awareness Month this April by implementing policies to help reduce stress levels and demonstrate employee appreciation in your organization.