Workplace stress is a serious concern for employees. Consequently, this becomes just as serious for management and HR departments. Although Francisca Gino of Harvard Business Review advises that some stress helps performance, anything above a certain threshold has the opposite effect. This inevitably leads to issues like absenteeism, chronic health problems and burnout. Ultimately, productivity suffers.
The statistics, of course, speak for themselves. According to two surveys cited by the American Institute of Stress, 80% of workers find their jobs stressful, with half of those employees saying that they find their positions “very or extremely stressful.” In fact, 14% of respondents in one survey said that they wanted to use physical violence against a colleague.
Any HR staff member should find these statistics alarming; here are five HR strategies to reduce employee stress and create a healthy, balanced workplace.
Childcare is a major source of both stress and absenteeism. The pressures of handling a family inevitably seep into individuals’ work lives, and vice-versa. This creates an endless cycle of stress that, if left unchecked, will lead to serious problems.
Of course, there is a solution. Simply providing a space staffed with qualified childcare workers minimises employee stress and leads to better overall performance.
According to Tracy Trautner of Michigan State University, only 7% of employers offer on-site child supervision. Unfortunately, this is a huge missed opportunity for mitigating stress.
Trautner states that
When an employer provides on-site child care, employees work hard, stay with their jobs, miss fewer work days and brag about the places they work.
Some managers may think that vacation time is a liability – something that causes staff shortages and added workloads. This couldn’t be more wrong.
Many employees fail to use their vacation time, either to appear hard-working or for fear of being seen as lazy or undedicated. This is why a good HR department needs to help dispel these thoughts. Simply posting reminders, circulating memos or sending e-mails emphasizing the value of vacation time will make employees more comfortable taking time off. Employers should give priority to those who have used little or no time off.
Harvard Business Review (HBR) advises that “A positive, well-managed vacation can make you happier and less stressed, and you can return with more energy at work and with more meaning in your life.”
Of course, the benefits are irrefutable. HBR cites a study that found “…94% [of employees] had as much or more energy after coming back after a good trip. In fact, on low-stress trips, 55% returned to work with even higher levels of energy than before the trip.”
Missing work results in reduced productivity. But sometimes, this could be preferable to the alternative. Also called “presenteeism,” this refers to employees who come to work when they’re unfit to do so.
To be specific, we’re referring to the issue of sick days. Some workers are known for their tendency to come in, regardless of how ill they are. This could be due to either personal values on work ethic, lack of paid sick days or fear of reprisal.
Managers need to ensure that employees don’t have to feel guilty about missing work for health reasons – be they mental or physical. Making other people sick will only lead to more stress for everyone. What follows is a “domino effect,” whereby staff shortages force healthy or sick (but present) employees to take on an increased workload.
If this isn’t a big enough selling point, however, then consider the findings of Michael Cheng from Modern Workforce. He explains that the combined cost of “contagious presenteeism” equates to a yearly loss of approximately $150 billion USD.
Offer Remote Work
Many businesses assume that employees need to be in the office to complete their work. The truth is that allowing staff to work from home when necessary – such as in the case of , to name a few – is a great way to keep them productive while giving them a chance to recover or deal with their issues. As a result, workers won’t have to worry about missing deadlines, nor will their colleagues be forced to take on the stress of an extra workload. It maintains productivity and promotes healing.
Working remotely attacks a variety of key stressors. One major source is commuting. According to Andrea Loubier of Forbes, “55% of people felt more stressed as a result of their commute.” She also reveals that “…80% of remote workers reported higher morale, 82% said it helped lower their stress levels…”
Provide Employee Stress Management Training
While it’s always good to proactively give employees certain benefits and encourage anti-stress behaviors, giving them the tools to independently manage workplace pressure is just as valuable.
Employee stress management programs educate workers on how to cope with day-to-day stressors, and the benefits are quite apparent. For instance, stress management programs have been linked to increased productivity, better sales performance and reduced absenteeism. Joe Robinson of Optimal Performance Strategies mentions a study that found a 6% increase in productivity through stress management programs. He also cites that it increased sales revenue and reduced absenteeism by 23% and 24% respectively.
Robinson also mentions how stress management improves engagement by countering things like burnout, illness, distraction and resentment – all of which damage productivity while contributing to absenteeism and turnover.
Essentially, employees who learn to cope with workplace stress will work harder and more efficiently. If they don’t feel overwhelmed, then they’ll view their employer in a positive light and generally feel more engaged. In turn, they’re less likely to display negativity or waste company time due to absenteeism or weak effort.
When workers’ stress levels decrease, the benefits eventually affect the bottom line. Naturally, an increase in productivity and a positive attitude leads to bigger overall output for the business.
Most Valued Resource
Employees are the most important resource. As such, helping manage employee stress through certain perks, accommodations or educational resources is something that all HR managers and supervisors need to explore.