Corporations want employees to be engaged, focused, energetic, and happy when they walk into the office. Yet, a growing number of workers feel anxiety build as they saunter to their desks. In fact, stress has become one of the most daunting obstacles to employee engagement in today’s workplace, one draining productivity, time, and money. Managers can reduce such feelings by understanding what triggers stress, creating a safety net for employees, and setting a good example.
Stress is defined as the feeling of being overwhelmed or unable to cope with mental or emotional pressure, and it often brings mental and physical consequences. It is also a part of life, just as much as the air individuals breathe and the food they eat.
Workplace stress comes from increasing workloads, declining revenue, a lack of job security, quickly changing market dynamics, and personnel problems. More and more, such factors are overwhelming employees.
In fact, its negative consequences are so pronounced that stress has been declared a World Wide Epidemic by the World Health Organization. The workplace has been identified as the number one source of stress for American workers, and the problem costs U.S. businesses an estimated $300 billion
What can be done to lessen its blow?
Recognize Stress’ Negative Impact on the Company
So, how does workplace stress impact the bottom line? Stress and stress-related health issues are major drivers of workplace absenteeism. Daily, 1 million U.S. employees miss work because of stress-related issues.
Absenteeism costs U.S. organizations roughly $3,600 annually per hourly worker and $2,650 for a salaried worker. These expenditures include the wages paid to absent employees; the additional costs of replacing absent workers (whether through overtime for existing employees and/or bringing in temporary workers); and the administrative costs connected to managing absenteeism.
Stress also creates anxiety. Workers become distracted and productivity drops. Organizations incur higher medical and worker’s compensation costs. Indirect costs include poor quality of product or services because of understaffing, lost management time when finding replacement workers and administering discipline and decreased morale of employees forced to do more with less. On occasion, One employee’s low morale and loss of motivation often becomes contagious, creating angst in the office.
Stress also leads to burnout. When work becomes too stressful, employees decide it is not worth the effort and leave. In today’s highly competitive job market, they can easily find another job.
Create a Healthy Workplace
Nearly one in five US adults lives with a mental illness, yet 55% of employees say their employer either does not have (or they were unaware of) a mental health program. Providing employees with access to professional guidance when they feel stressed is becoming an easier business case to make.
Exercise and healthy living are two weapons against workplace stress. Exercise is a proven stress reliever. It provides employees with a distraction, so they are not consumed by their job. It also improves moods by increasing the production of endorphins, the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. Managers have a few ways to prod employees to exercise:
- Subsidize gym memberships
- Encourage them to go on a walk during lunch breaks
- Bring a yoga instructor into the office once a month
- Hold a steps contest among teams for those who own fitness trackers
Revamp the Office
Most offices are designed to minimize the floorspace needed, so the enterprise spends as little as possible. The box like cubicles found in most businesses can resemble and fell like a prison in some cases. Workers are sequestered, and noise blocking partitions make it difficult to communicate. Consequently, offices evoke a gloomy feeling.
So, try to be creative. Rather than a bottom line view of office furniture investments, try to examine the impact of the type of environment created and make the office feel more welcoming. Update the office with an upbeat color scheme, add plants, or new pictures. If you have the space, think about adding a ping pong or foosball table to allow employees to take their mind off of their jobs for a few minutes.
Also, recognize that any changes that increase an employee’s enjoyment leaves them feeling less stressed. Sweat the details: small, inexpensive changes, like getting a higher quality coffee, or sending a message that you are invested in their well-being, have a positive impact.
Employees Follow Managers’ Lead
Understand that managers lead by example and your behavior greatly influences the whole organization. Employees also look to their managers for cues on what is acceptable in the workplace. If managers do not try to handle their own stress, employees won’t either. If you run around and appear to be stressed out, they recognize it and feel threatened.
Leaders need to show their team it is OK to disconnect by taking advantage of flexible work schedules or PTO, eating lunch away from the desk, and staying logged off when using sick or mental health days Similarly, encourage employees to support one another through physical acts, like helping with a project if they have extra time, as well as digital acts, like messages of encouragement and recognition via social communities.
Small Acts of Kindness Produce Big Results
Employees feel valued when they think their boss is looking out for their mental health. As evidence, 66% of employees felt extremely or very happy when their employer regularly stocked the refrigerator and cupboards, and 83% said that having healthy and fresh snack options was a huge perk.
Stress is part of the modern workplace and negatively impacts businesses. Companies can mitigate its influence by understanding its implications, encouraging healthy behaviors, and putting skin in the game. The changes benefit not only the employees but the business as well.