Believe it or not, even though so many Americans are super stressed out on the job, it is not a common topic of conversation amongst employers and employees. As we have all become accustomed to a work culture in which increasing demands, strict deadlines and long hours are considered the new norm, the idea of feeling overwhelmed and anxious almost seems taboo to talk about. Employees are faced with the stigma of even suggesting they feel overly stressed at work, fearful of the negative connotations associated with such an admission. They feel that somehow it poorly reflects upon their work ethic, morale and aptitude. Yet, according to The American Institute of Stress, American companies are losing $300 billion a year due to health care, sick days and productivity losses, all because of stress. This conversation demands our attention and we have put together five insightful tips on how to manage stress and initiate healthier habits for a happier and esteemed workplace environment.
1. Create A Safe Company Environment For Open Communication
Employees first need to feel safe before they willingly offer their feedback or feelings. To build trust, try instilling different methods of safe communication such as anonymous surveys, scheduling open workshops specifically targeted towards the causes of stress and ways to reduce it, and advertising HR personnel who are readily available to listen and find resolutions.
Fitspot anonymously surveys our client’s employees throughout their time as participants of our programming, and we focus certain questions on their feelings of stress in the workplace. Our latest Nationwide Survey found that 53 percent noticed positive changes in their stress levels since Fitspot came to their workplace. This could be due to Fitspot’s stress management workshops, hosted by wellness professionals to provide employees with tips and ways to combat stress and maintain healthy mental well-being.
Perhaps one of the most powerful solutions is for managers to purposely provide an open door policy to their employees. This should always be respected as a safe space for employees to address any concerns or frustrations so that together they may find applicable solutions and create a plan for future improvement.
2. Enforce Trickle-Down Management Of Healthier Practices
Leading by example is everything and employees will notice the effort. Managers must recognize their instrumental role in implementing new actions and habits first, for others to follow. Thus, if an employer encourages an open door policy with staff and hopes to create an environment of consistent, honest and open dialogue, practice a judgment-free zone. Focus on offering constructive feedback and advice. A camaraderie and confidence will build, ultimately strengthening company infrastructure.
Also, it is imperative that employers and employees be on the same page when it comes to following basic rules to prevent stress. This includes:
- When you take time off, it should be time off! Put a hold on projects and do not check your work email or answer work-related calls – there should be no expectation to do so until you return to work.
- Respect a work-life balance (family and leisure time) and do not call or send emails after-hours. Set a policy for all levels of the organization to practice these hours.
- Employee roles and responsibilities should be clearly defined and outlined during the hiring process; to avoid burnout, hire extra staff as needed for any new, additional work.
Such steps are crucial to consider for a successful employee retention rate. Otherwise, a major disconnect will become obvious and employees will ultimately feel disillusioned by management.
3. Provide A Wellness Program For Employees
Having a comprehensive wellness program that offers robust services for employees to take advantage of is an incredible resource. According to a report outlined by The American Institute of Stress, 80 percent of workers experience stress on the job, almost half report that they need help in learning how to manage stress and 42 percent say their coworkers need such help as well.
Fitspot serves as a helpful alternative by offering a wide array of services to diffuse stress including:
- Relaxing chair massages that provide a nice break from the long workday.
- Yoga to provide gentle stretching, strength and focus before work, midday or to wind down from the workday.
- Meditation classes to improve mindfulness and calm the mind.
- Fitness classes for an energizing way to sweat out the stress on the job, increase movement, decrease anxiety and stimulate those feel-good endorphins.
- Community events to bring people together and provide a fun, social break during the day, such as essential oil making and kombucha happy hour.
4. Encourage Employees To Use Their Full Paid Time Off (PTO) & Sick Days
It’s ironic how prospective employees are “sold” competitive benefits packages from companies, including a promising number of vacation and sick days, only to have that time be left unused when those employees become fully termed. According to a survey conducted by Bridge by Instructure, Inc., of more than 1,000 office employees, only one-third of the respondents were encouraged by their employers to take paid time off. The result? Overworked, exhausted and stressed-out employees over time and an increased margin of error. Try fostering this healthy initiative instead so that employees can take a much-needed break to rest and recharge, so that they may return to work with renewed vigor, purpose and higher productivity.
5. Cultivate Self Care
The most important aspect to remember is taking care of yourself. Make sure you are getting enough sleep every day. Skimping on sleep will only derail your efforts further by hindering your problem-solving skills, slowing down your overall cognitive functioning and blur your focus – all significant elements for achieving successful productivity. Most adults need to aim for 7-8 hours. When you are tired, everything will feel more difficult and that only increases stress. Next, get moving! Movement, whether it’s standing, stretching, walking or aerobic exercise, naturally improves mental and physical well-being, while reducing stress significantly. Lastly, recognize the importance of good nutrition. By eating a healthy diet that nourishes you and sustains you, you will feel better and have more energy to get things done. No matter how busy you are, do not skip lunch! Realize that time and performance are directly related. Make the time to eat. Food is converted in your body to energy and without it, how can you perform as well?
We must realize that even the savviest of employees are not super-human. We all need the opportunity to rest and recharge so that we can be our best selves. Even with the best of intentions, employees will falter if they are consistently pushed to the limit, allowing stress to take over. Morale will soon suffer, leading to higher turnover and/or slower progress. If we can empower employees to practice preventative self care and cultivate a workplace setting in which employers fully embrace and support these steps to reduce stress, a door to new possibilities and greater achievement will open.