Each April, health care professionals and health promotion experts “celebrate” (can that possibly be the right word for it?) Stress Awareness Month, to highlight the high and still-growing number of people who suffer from stress-related issues.
Nowhere are stress management issues felt more acutely than in the workplace. One survey from Paychex found that 70% of Americans ranked their workplace stress as three-out-of-five or higher, and 60% of workers reported feeling stressed in work at least three days a week.
While unpleasant for employees, this has a significant knock-on effect on businesses too. In Australia, for example, stressed employees account for 92 million days of absenteeism per year. Stressed employees are less productive to the tune of US$ 150 billion per year in the United States alone. That’s without adding in the fact that stressed employees incur 50% higher health care costs and leave jobs faster than non-stressed employees.
Non-desk industries are hit particularly hard with healthcare, hospitality, construction and retail top of the list of verticals with stressed-out workforces.
So what can your organization do to help reduce employee stress? Here are Speakap’s top 15 stress-busting tips.
1. Talk about stress
Merely recognizing the existence of workplace stress and starting a dialogue reduces the number of stressed employees and brings down employee churn figures.
2. Recognize your workforce
Employees who receive recognition feel more closely connected to their company’s purpose which, in turn, lowers stress. Interestingly, managers who provide recognition often are also more likely to have a positive working experience.
3. Provide a two-way platform
There are few things more stressful or frustrating than feeling unheard. Whether through regular team stand-ups with managers or by integrating an app for internal communications, provide colleagues with the means to feedback.
4. Shorten the lines
Team members who feel they can reach out to their direct manager, their HR team and maybe even their senior managers also tend to experience higher levels of engagement and less stress. This can mean dropping a note on the company mobile internal communication app for chat rather than dropping around for dinner with the CEO.
5. Encourage activity
Regular physical activity reduces stress. Simple. You could go the whole hog and give your employees complimentary access to local gyms or you could simply encourage them to go for walks during their breaks. At Speakap HQ, we have Tuesday night football, Thursday lunch run club and the 4-minute plank challenge every day at 15:00.
6. Provide support
Support doesn’t mean hugging all your stressed employees every day. However, do make sure they know exactly where to go to find the resources they need, the information they may require to deal with challenging situations and easy access to the right contacts if they have questions. Your intranet or internal employee communications platform is the perfect resource that can be kept up-to-date and accessed by all staff whenever they need it.
7. Establish clear barriers
The more stressful the job, the more likely your colleagues are to take that stress home with them, which creates a vicious stress circle. Make sure employees can fully disconnect when not in work. Speakap's internal comms software, for example, has a Do Not Disturb function that users can set automatically or on demand so they can’t be reached with work-related issues when off-shift.
8. Holidays are holy
An extension of the above point: make sure your employees can shed responsibilities and leave work behind them when they take annual leave or head off on vacation - it’ll make them happier and more productive in the long-run.
9. Teach them something new
There’s abundant evidence that learning something new helps people to ward off stress. Also, there are additional upsides: if colleagues learn together, they’ll forge better team dynamics; employees who feel like their company invests in them are likely to feel more engaged, and the company ends up with a more highly-skilled employee! Win-win-win-win.
10. Separate work from pleasure
Many companies still use text messages or Whatsapp to communicate with their frontline workers. Aside from the legal issues with this, it also means that workers are bombarded with professional messages and chat on their personal platforms and can't control the separation of personal and professional. A dedicated, branded mobile internal employee communications platform provides separation and clarity.
11. Don't hide from crises
Could Brexit have major ramifications on your company? Is the retail apocalypse endangering your business? Don't hide from these issues - discuss them openly with your employees who are probably stressed about these concerns. Just being involved in the discussion lowers stress levels — and your workforce may even provide solutions.
12. Be flexible where possible
Flexible working hours have been shown to reduce stress. Obviously, industries like healthcare, hospitality, and retail can't okay employees working from home whenever they want to, but through the integration of smart scheduling technologies, they can authorize employees to choose shifts which best fit in with their other life demands, such as studies, childcare or even looking after a sick or elderly relative.
13. Create peer networks
Whether physical or digital, creating groups in which all members of staff can discuss issues and even complain and vent is shown to not only be healthy but can lead to more productive employees. These groups make everyone feel supported and can even lead to crowdsourcing solutions.
14. Provide a restorative break environment
It's been shown time and again that healthy eating lowers stress. So make sure employees have more access to fruit, salads, water, and tea for their food breaks and decrease the presence of vending machines packed with candy and sugary drinks. Healthy eating is also about how the employee eats: make sure they can take their time to eat and relax, instead of grabbing quick bites under the cash register while nobody is looking.
15. Activate senior management
The more visible your senior leadership are, the more appreciated, confident, engaged and relaxed your workforce feels. Some Speakap customers, for example, use video messages for the CEO or MD to send messages about important updates, or even to congratulate teams or individuals on performance or company landmarks.
So, there you have it: 15 tips that you can integrate into your workplace right now. Of course, you don't need to bring in all 15 at once; even one pressure-relieving change can make a big difference to your employees, their stress levels and their overall happiness.