Scriptwriter, comedian and author Jane Wagner once wrote, “Reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it.” Wagner actually meant it as a funny line for her partner, comedian Lily Tomlin, to recite , but it hit close to home for many business experts however, as the truth is that stress causes all kinds of problems for employees, employers and for a company’s bottom line.
That last part? Yes, stress in the workplace is a drain on a company’s bottom line. According to a report from Eastern Kentucky University workplace stress is costing US businesses over $30 billion annually and employees are reporting stress levels at work that are higher than they have been in 15 years.
These losses come from several different areas; increased absenteeism, higher medical and insurance fees, reduced productivity and higher turnover to name but a few. The bottom line is that not only are stressed employees less healthy, far unhappier and a lot less productive but, to be blunt, they are costing you money.
It is therefore in any employer’s best interests to help reduce stress in workplace. This does not mean letting employees walk into work at anytime they want, overpaying them or mollycoddling them (which is what some employers fear it does) it simply means paying attention to stressors you as an employer caan control and also helping stressed employees know where to turn for relief (as not all stress comes from work.)
The American Institute of Stress, a recognized global authority on the subject, identifies four main causes of stress in the workplace: workload (46 percent), conflicts with other people (28 percent), juggling personal and professional time (20 percent), and lack of job security (6 percent). And you, as an employer do have plenty of opportunity to help reduce stress in all of these areas. Here are just a few tips.
Be Open and Transparent
Worries about where the organization – and their job – may be going next, keeps a lot of Americans stressed (and up at night). That is not something you as an employer can completely control of course, but you can remain open and transparent with your employees to help reduce the stress and uncertainty of not knowing what’s going on.
Don’t Overload Your Employees – Or Yourself – With Work
Look back a few lines. The leading cause of workplace stress at 46% is workload. Overworked employees are stressed employees. So while you may think that you are getting things done faster the chances are you are not, because the extra hours, expectations etc are likely to be stressing your employees out. Were they given more time it’s quite likely they would do a better job and feel better about the company at the same time.
A good rule of thumb to adopt? If if the work cannot be completed within normal working hours, it’s too much. Beyond that, when people do a job well, praise them for it. Offer incentives and rewards and opportunities for career development. These things encourage employees to do their best without making them feel that they are under constant pressure.
Cultivate A Better Work Environment
A lot is discussed these days about the importance of teamwork and ‘team building activities’. This often leads to the kind of forced socialization that some people hate, and that, in turn, creates stress. Creating ways for employees to socialize and bond as a team is fine idea but don’t force socialization on everyone as a condition of employment or to ensure they fit in.
Encourage Employees to Ask for Help
Stress is not a joke. Some of the earliest physical signs that stress is affecting a person’s health are things like headaches and muscle tension, trouble concentrating, sleeplessness, fatigue, irritability, and apathy. But if the situation remains unaddressed the physical effects can snowball into things like heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, and even stroke.
This means you need to encourage employees to take stress of any kind seriously and seek help when they need it. Arrange lunch and learns with a stress reduction expert. Bring in a massage expert once a month to treat the whole office. Adopt an open door policy when it comes to discussing stressors like overwork, workplace bullying and harassment. And know that however much these things cost (which shouldn’t be that much) you’ll be saving money in the long run.