Stress in the workplace can have a real and negative impact on your company's operations. The Harvard Business Review reports that approximately $500 billion is lost from the U.S. economy annually due to workplace stress, with 550 million workdays lost each year. The same survey attributes 60-80 percent of workplace accidents as stress-related—so clearly there is cause for concern. Studies show that absenteeism due to stress costs American companies an estimated $602 per worker per year, with the overall price tag for larger employers edging on the average loss of $3.5 million per year.
In order to understand how to help curb these losses, companies should consider taking steps to proactively address stress in the workplace.
Understanding What Causes Stress in the Workplace
There are a number of things that can ramp up your team's stress. Some factors may be an unavoidable part of the work environment, while others may be within your control. Signs to look for that could be causing work-related stress include:
Management issues: As the saying goes, workers rarely leave companies—they leave bosses. Be aware of how your managers perform, especially in their human resources-related duties. Spotting poor management habits and taking steps to correct them as early as possible can reduce stress and the negative aspects from it.
Schedule challenges: Work-life balance can add to workers' stress. For example, are you requiring that your team work unreasonable schedules or failing to address their schedule requests? In this instance, think about how to foster work-life balance when creating team schedules, and you'll be more likely to have workers producing at a higher level.
High workloads: Demanding workloads can also add unnecessary stress to workers' lives. It's important to maximize productivity, but it's also important to consider what is realistic and sustainable over the long-term. For example, is it realistic for your sales team to make fifty new customer contacts per day when the industry standard is thirty? Or can your admin team really clear one hundred cases per day if each case takes up to fifteen minutes to resolve? Balance the need for meeting business demand, and accomplishing goals, by setting a pace that's challenging but attainable.
Compensation and benefits: Stress in the workplace doesn't always relate directly to the office itself. Are your compensation and benefits competitive for what your team needs? Employees who are underpaid and struggling to pay their bills or are facing health crises without adequate healthcare coverage may not be able to deliver the top results that you need to thrive. Ensure that you're offering fair compensation and benefits for the value that you're receiving.
Office politics and team dynamics: Office politics and team dynamics can also create stress on a day-to-day basis. Gossip, negativity, workplace bullying, and other issues can lower employee morale and make it difficult for workers to be on their top game. Invest in your company culture to minimize these issues.
Fostering a Healthy Work Environment
Exercise: Regardless of the industry, studies show that getting people out and moving is an incredibly simple way of relieving stress. Work-sponsored events like "walkathons" are a great way to boost employee morale and get involved in the community. Employees at certain companies, for example, are able to download "stretch break" reminders that encourage people to elevate and exercise based on a timer from their computer. These tiny “daybreaks” stimulated by motivation can help boost workforce productivity.
Mono-tasking: Much like the ability to handle several tasks at a time, reducing a worker's stress includes an activity called mono-tasking. While "multitasking" can increase the amount of time it takes to complete a task, mono-tasking incorporates clear, "one-at-a-time" deliverables. This means milestones don't overlap and workers can establish a hyper-focus—one task at a time.
Breaks: Allowing people the time to recoup and do their jobs effectively is important to overall stress management in the workplace. Employers need to allow workers time to disconnect. "Always-on" mentalities in business can often hinder staff productivity and stifle creativity.
Modern employees often find themselves having an exceptionally difficult time disconnecting from work. In order for people to perform, however, it is essential they have time to recharge and reassess their working conditions. Stress management at work starts with recognizing the common factors that can give people anxiety, and from there establishing the most effective methods to alleviate them.