Three Step Approach to Reducing Stress in the Workplace

April 23, 2020

April is Stress Awareness Month and with the distraction of adapting to the COVID19 pandemic, many of us have not had an opportunity to raise awareness to stress within the workplace. Now more than ever it is important to look out for our employees and ourselves as stress levels are elevated.

As we take a moment to pause and understand the significance of this problem in the workplace your management team may want to take a three-step approach to Stress Awareness:

  1. Understanding the significance of recognizing stress and implementing a plan to reduce stress

“Seventy percent of workers are stressed about their health, jobs and finances, and more than 20% spend at least five hours each week thinking about these stressors during their working hours.” – Colonial Life

  • Turmoil within an employee’s home life, left unresolved, may often be brought into work leaving an employee unable to focus on the task at hand, resulting in decreased productivity, with a larger margin for error.
  • Absences and frequent lateness are often signs of stress and an inability to balance work/home life and to control stress levels.
  • A tired employee may not be working to capacity – costing the company production hours on a weekly basis if left unresolved.

When evaluating these simple facts, examining your own workforce, and applying some formulas to identify the loss of productivity and an estimate of its annual cost, you may feel a little anxious as to how to address this concern as many business owners are not mental health experts. It may feel like another hat that you have to learn how to wear!

Setting aside the time to recognize this problem is the first step in understanding a need to evaluate solutions to address stress in the workplace to increase productivity.

Additionally, this will create a culture in which your employees will feel cared for and valued resulting in increased retention.

The creation of a work culture that is aware of employee stress will ultimately result in larger profit margins and reduce anxiety in business owners and those in management roles.

  1. Identifying what is causing stress both inside the workplace and outside the workplace

Employees wear two hats and are often juggling a work/life balance that may include caring for an older parent or raising young children. They face financial struggles outside work that may include making ends meet on a weekly basis to paying for college, medical bills, or saving for retirement.

Employees returning to work after a leave of absence or bereavement may have a hard time transitioning and may need some support.

Common stressors inside the workplace include:

  • Difficulties in processing change resulting from introducing too much change too quickly, significant changes, or not discussing the implementation of a change with employees prior to implementation
  • Employees working too many hours or their inability to keep up with workloads
  • Employees cite not having a voice in selecting projects or being assigned work that may not be of interest to them
  • Employees comparing themselves to their peers – adopting a competitive approach to work with a focus on recognition
  • Lack or recognition

After recognizing these ‘danger points’ an organization’s management team can look at how to provide opportunities to implement opportunities to reduce stress.

  1. Implement a plan to reduce stress by providing opportunities to relieve tensions

Many employers introduce an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as part of a benefit package during New Hire Orientation but may not follow up on it throughout the year.

By creating a schedule to send regular reminders out to make their workforce aware of the program or hanging posters up in the breakroom about the program, as a constant visual reminder, the opportunity becomes a part of the culture of the firm.

Employers can host regular “Lunch and Learns” and can bring in professionals from their community that include Financial Planners to help with financial stress and even a Hospice Coordinator to help those that are caring for a loved one or coping with loss.

Some organizations are unable to work remotely but as we navigate the COVID19 situation we have learned that for some this may be a permanent option or solution for employers to allow their employees to sleep longer and remove a stressful morning commute, increasing productivity and overall happiness.

The adjustment of shifts and schedules is also something that can help an employee achieve work/life balance, eliminating stress.

In addition to posting information about an EAP, some employers pass out stress balls in meetings that can be kept in desks or reintroduced during meetings in which transitions may be discussed.

A break schedule or just encouraging small breaks, may allow an overwhelmed employee an opportunity to practice relaxation techniques. They may in fact come back and work faster and be more focused, thus increasing production.

Managers should be trained to assess stress on either a regular basis or during performance reviews. They should also be trained to be empathetic as mental health can have a stigma attached to it and regularly having discussions as a team or one-on-one may allow an employee to reach out for help if necessary.

PaySmart is a payroll provider located in Mechanicsburg, PA supporting small businesses in the Central PA region. PaySmart is dedicated to helping small businesses take care of their payroll needs. To learn more information about how PaySmart may provide payroll solutions please contact 717-766-1777. Our New Client Concierge is waiting for you.