How to Avoid Workplace Stress
Part 1 of a two-part series
Stress can enter our lives silently, affecting our outlook, attitude and decision-making before we stand up and take notice. We’re all vulnerable to stress from different areas in their lives. And while stress doesn’t usually respect work-life boundaries, it can make every work day feel like a marathon.
It’s true that stress can help you stay focused and energized and raise your game to meet new challenges. But too much stress is counterproductive and where that line exists is different for everyone.
How each of us reacts to tension, disagreements and criticism can turn an everyday work situation into a stressful one. While some work settings are more stressful than others — constant deadlines are natural stress breeders —the company culture has a lot to do with employee stress and burnout. And working under constant stress takes its toll on employee health and wellbeing.
“Chronic stress can result in anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system,” The American Psychological Association noted. “It can also contribute to health conditions such as depression, obesity, and heart disease. Compounding the problem, people who experience excessive stress often deal with it in unhealthy ways, such as overeating, eating unhealthy foods, smoking cigarettes, or abusing drugs and alcohol.”
About 8 out of 10 employees reporting stress in at least one area of their job, according to the Society of Human Resources Management, Boost Midwest recommends these best practices for a less stressful workplace:
10 Ways to De-stress Your Company Culture
Have leadership set the example. How executives, managers and team leaders react to work situations sets the tone for their employees. An immediate, emotional reaction that may involve yelling or assigning blame will signal to employees that this is an acceptable response to problems even though it’s 100% counterproductive. Leadership that takes time to form a balanced response to questions, challenges and crises can de-escalate situations.
Develop a culture of wellness. Try providing healthy snacks, team bonding activities, and options for exercise, meditation and yoga both within and outside work hours. If possible, consider setting policies that help employees maintain a work-family balance.
Talk to your employees. Start by having an open conversation with your team and then with each individual team member. This isn’t meant to hear a list of complaints but to come up with a plan to manage the stressors affecting team members.
Establish company-wide work-life boundaries. In today’s digital world, it’s become common to be connected to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So establish some work-life boundaries for your team and company. While people differ in their level of comfort with blending work and home life, creating clear boundaries, like not checking email at night, to reduce conflict and stress, may help.
Allow employees time to recharge. Ensure that your people have time away from work to relax and unwind. We prize conscientious employees, but consider a no-rollover policy for paid time off to ensure employees use their allotted vacation days. They will come back refreshed, relaxed, recharged and ready to perform.
Provide organizational support for employees. Many companies have an employee assistance program (EAP) as part of their human resources department. Even if your company does not, consider compiling an online resource bank for employees, with information on available counseling, mental health professionals, substance abuse programs, and self-help techniques for stress.
Avoid unrealistic expectations. In 2020, the World Health Organization reported that workplace stress is more common when employees are asked to do things that exceed their knowledge, abilities and coping skills. But managers know that sometimes this is unavoidable. So when this does happen, make sure your employee has enough support from team members and leadership to “close the gap.”
Create opportunities for social interactions. Pizza party anyone? Small breaks that allow employees to interact away from assigned tasks is a big morale booster. And organizing social occasions outside of working hours — apart from the annual holiday party — is another option.
Clearly set out workers’ roles and responsibilities. Employees are happier and more productive when they know exactly what is expected of them. Each position should have a job description that outlines its role and responsibilities. Any deviation should be discussed with the team member first to ensure buy-in and learn any issues specific to the employee.
Engage an external consultant for new ways to address workplace burnout. An experienced consultant can offer an objective look at your company culture and how it may be contributing to employee stress and burnout. A fresh perspective may bring to light deeper or unknown negative issues rooted in company culture and the most effective ways to address them.
At Boost Midwest, we’ve seen how a careful review can highlight areas where even minor changes in and communication can shift company culture in positive ways.
Click here for 5 Quick Tips to Improve Team Morale
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