Stress is the single worst enemy of productivity. A stressed-out worker is usually not an efficient worker. Furthermore, high employee stress levels can lead to higher rates of employee turnover and absenteeism; who wants to work at a job with constant stress?
Not only is stress an obstacle to productivity, it can work against a business’ attempts to attain key business objectives. We all know that a business must be profitable to survive, but without recognizing the danger of pushing workers too hard, you’ll end up spending more money than necessary to counter mistakes made by tired, depressed, and stressed-out individuals.
Follow my 7 tips below to help your employees bounce back and minimize unneeded stress:
1. Get Creative
Stress on the brain will squash creativity. It’s harder to “think outside the box” and be at your best when you’re chronically stressed. If you’re in a role that emphasizes mental nimbleness and dexterity, the consequences of stress can be a major roadblock to your (and your company’s) success.
Consider implementing a few creative strategies to lighten your employee’s mental load. Daydreaming is typically seen as a bad thing, however a few moments of structured mind-wandering every hour can help your workers recalibrate and better stay on task. Breathing exercises and “mindfulness” activities can also lessen workplace stress. Encourage workers to green up the office and bring in plants, which have a soothing effect on the soul. And if conditions allow, furry friends are also a wonderful addition to the workplace. According to WebMD, taking even a few minutes to play with a dog or cat can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine -- nerve transmitters that are known to have pleasurable and calming properties.
2. Suggest "Screen-Free" Time
The modern workforce spends most of its time glued to a computer screen. The problem with sitting in a cubicle and staring at a glowing rectangle all day is that it is a highly unnatural and inert way to spend one's time. Interaction with other people, and with one's environment, is needed to stay mentally healthy and engaged.
Hopefully, your employees already understand that they should step away from their screens several times throughout the day. You can take this further by suggesting the use of software tools, like F.lux, that make the light emanating from a computer monitor more natural and less straining on the eyes. This program makes the monitor show more typical “daylight” colors, which can help reduce computer screen fatigue.
3. Offer Financial Counseling Services
Many people find that financial issues cause them the most stress. Promoting financial wellness and addressing the negative effects of money-related stress on employees is often overlooked by companies when they seek to lessen the stress level of their workforce. In fact, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) noted in its 2016 Employee Benefits survey report that 61 percent of HR professionals polled last year described their employees' financial health as no better than "fair" and 17 percent reported their employees were "not at all financially literate."
Given the statistics above, there is much you can do to help your employees meet their financial goals. Consider bringing on a financial counseling professional that can assist your employees in determining their financial health and offer personalized, actionable advice. If adding staff isn’t an option, try designing a financial wellness program that motivates employees to be more proactive in saving for retirement, purchasing a home, or paying back student loans. You will find that as your employees gain clarity about their financial situation, they will not only be less stressed, but possibly inspire them to improve other aspects of their lives - including their productivity at work.
4. Engage and Recognize Your Employees at Work
Higher employee engagement leads to higher employee productivity and happiness, so it’s critical to find ways to engage your workforce. One method used by many companies is establishing a recognition and rewards program. Recognition has been found to be the number one driver of employee engagement, so by building a culture of recognition, and having employees feel appreciated for what they do, you’ll see more positive social engagement and better performance. Encourage your employees to take time out of their day to de-stress by recognizing others for their hard work. A simple “thank you” can go a long way!
5. Involve Your Employees in Exercise
There is nothing that gets people moving and motivated like a physical wellness program. Exercise is healthy and stimulating for both body and mind. There are various ways that you can get your employees involved in daily exercise habits that help them fight off illness, obesity, and other physical manifestations of stress. Could your company partner with a local gym, or give membership discounts to employees? Is there a yoga teacher willing to offer in-office sessions? Options such as these require minimal financial and time commitments for your company, so instituting at least one of them seems like a no-brainer.
6. Offer Flexible Work Arrangements
Many studies have shown that flexible work arrangements can benefit employers as much as they do employees. Remote work and other flexible options can be a huge boost to many worker’s mental well-being, which in turn boosts your company’s bottom line.
Most people make money to support their families, but the long work hours needed to earn it mean a constant tension between work and familial responsibilities. Flexible work options, such as telecommuting, part-time roles, and flexible scheduling, can have a major impact on an employee’s quality of life. In fact, just the idea of a flexible work arrangement helped some companies improve their employee retention rates - before workers even started taking part. That’s right, simply by suggesting the concept of more flexible work, you can indirectly encourage employees to work harder and stay with your company longer.
7. Promote Healthy Living Habits at Work
Remember that your employees' health and welfare is key to increasing productivity and fulfilling the goals of your company. By offering free healthy snacks and encouraging your employees to maintain healthy habits at work, you are helping establishing the groundwork of a healthy lifestyle that could transfer over to the rest of their lives. As they say, you are what you eat - so by making sure there are healthy (even organic) options in the break room or at company meetings, you’re doing everyone’s bodies and minds a huge service.
Banishing stress from your workplace is an ongoing battle, but learning how to identify the symptoms of burn out and fatigue is a step in the right direction. Help your employees stay mentally, physically, financially, and emotionally healthy, and you’ll see your efforts reflected in a better bottom the company back in dividends.
To learn more about how employee wellness can lessen tension in the workplace, check out 5 Ways Wellness Programs Can Enhance Employee Engagement.