Workplace stress is near-epidemic levels. Here at home, Americans are working harder than ever and have now surpassed the Japanese in terms of the number of hours worked per month.
This data comes from a CNBC report, and while it is a testament to how hardworking Americans are, it is also resulting in stressed-out employees. Interestingly, these individuals tend to spend up to 77 minutes per workday watching non-work-related videos while at work—ostensibly, in an effort to de-stress. Unsurprisingly, this is costing companies big money, to the tune of $8,800 annually per FTE.
Quite a few businesses might actually be promoting a culture of busyness and burnout (emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress). A survey of 1,000 employees across America found that only 1 in 3 are urged to take paid time off, while only 11% are encouraged to take mental health days.
An article from Corporate Wellness Magazine describes workplace stress as “a silent killer of employee health and productivity” given how stressors, such as high job demands, job insecurity, inflexible working hours, and even harassment, negatively affect the mental and physical health of employees. After all, mental strain leads to physical maladies, like hypertension, diabetes, and chronic back pain. These stressors also exacerbate negative behaviors, such as inconsistency and engaging in unhealthy routines, like smoking and excessive drinking. All this manifests in poor performance, erratic behavior, and frequent absenteeism.
These are the reasons workplace stress costs businesses an inordinate amount of money. This is also why company leaders like you need to provide intervention in order to minimize stress, and keep it from overwhelming your team. That said, listed below are some best practices to effectively manage a stressed team:
Adopt an open door policy
Perhaps unbeknownst to you, stress can stem from something as simple as a lack of communication. Aside from fostering feelings of detachment and isolation among your team, lack of communication can also cause uncertainty. Instituting an open door policy, therefore, helps to eliminate a common source of stress.
In this way, your team members are likelier to approach you in case they have concerns. In turn, problems can be identified, and solutions can be discussed — as a team. You can start instituting this policy by creating different communication channels, and then scheduling regular meetings or check-ins. Make sure, too, that you listen intently to every grievance, and address them as best you can. However, remember to involve HR where possible, especially when the employee involved needs considerable support.
Institutionalize a comprehensive wellness program
Central to effective stress management should be a company-wide wellness program. Before starting one, though, you will first need to find out what employees expect out of it. The article What Wellness Actually Means for Workers outlines some common effective design elements of these endeavors, including perks that impact everyone positively and a high degree of personalization. Most importantly, employees want a comprehensive approach that looks beyond physical health, and considers both environmental health and emotional health, too.
Make your team happy
The wisdom behind this goal been covered here before: happiness enhances employee wellbeing and improves productivity at the same time. Of course, it can also alleviate stress.
That said, look to invest heavily in employee happiness the way Google does. With their programs, employee satisfaction spiked by 37%, resulting in a significant increase in productivity. And that’s to be expected considering the perks of being a Google employee: free food and haircuts, as well as proven stress busters such as subsidized massages, access to game rooms, and an onsite fitness center.
Sign off on mental health leaves
Last but certainly not the least, encourage members of your team to take time off when necessary. That’s because sometimes, all employees need is time to relax and recharge after days of stressful work. Alternatively, you can try what one IT services firm is attempting: No work every first Friday of the month in observance of mental health and wellness day. In this way, employees won’t fear missing out on something at work, knowing full well that everyone is taking a break as well. Hence, your team will be able to enjoy their extra day off and refresh their minds.
Phoebe Ella is a human resources consultant specializing in recruitment, employee benefits and compensation, and company wellness programs. She is also a mental health advocate and freelance writer who regularly writes for online publications about the intersection of work and mental health. She is currently researching company initiatives to enhance employee wellbeing, and is planning to write a manual on best practices in dealing with mental health in the workplace.