Over the last several years, work-related stress has reached record levels. In its 2023 State of the Global Workplace report, Gallup reported that 44% of workers experience significant stress at work. With nearly half the workforce under job-related stress that leads to lower productivity and quiet quitting, companies must implement strategies to mitigate stress for everyone on their teams if they want to see long-term sustainability and success.
To help you promote workplace well-being, United Consumer Financial Services has compiled our top four strategies for effectively managing stress at work. Read on to learn how to transform your workplace environment today.
Work-Related Stress Cannot Be Ignored
Gallup’s statistics take on greater significance against the shifting landscape of recent workplace trends. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, increased stress has often been linked to the rise in quiet quitting and employee disengagement. Similarly, the demand for mental health support at work has soared in recent years, so much so that 81% of workers say that mental health support will be a crucial factor when finding future work — work that involves less stress.
With a desire for improved well-being as a leading motivation, over half of the global workforce actively seeks other employment. This should not be surprising since conditions like heart disease, obesity, and depression are all associated with unmanaged stress. The problem is too pervasive and too significant to ignore. For the health of their employees and their businesses, employers need to help their workforce learn to manage stress.
Be Proactive and Identify Triggers
Recognizing triggers is the first step toward effectively managing work-related stress. However, due to the busy pace of their jobs, many employees do not take time to reflect on everyday stressors at work or how they respond to those stressors. As an employer, you can promote the health of your employees and your business by helping employees evaluate their stress at work.
Part of being proactive includes encouraging employees to record everyday stressors and evaluate what they report. Building stress-related questions into quarterly evaluations is a simple adjustment that pays dividends over time. As you train employees to recognize triggers and reflect on their responses to stress, train your managers and supervisors to assess these reports and develop creative workplace solutions.
Rather than waiting for stress-related problems to emerge, employers can proactively provide stress management and recovery training for employees. Offering free training sessions and access to counseling shows your employees that you care and helps mitigate the potential fallout of an overstressed workforce.
Prioritize Regular Breaks
Many employees are overstressed at work due to performance anxiety or organizational pressures to perform and work constantly. The stigma of taking breaks throughout the day often keeps employees from mentally and physically resting. However, the irony is that in an attempt to be more productive by avoiding breaks, employees are diminishing their productivity and health while increasing their risk of burnout and health problems like hypertension, migraines, and eyestrain.
Destigmatizing regular breaks and even requiring them for your workforce is an easy way to boost your employees’ productivity and well-being. Short, regular-interval breaks can reduce muscle tension and eyestrain and improve your employees’ focus. Encourage brief walks outside, visits to a break room, or an office activity that allows employees to rest and decompress every couple of hours.
In addition, longer breaks like lunch breaks or other mid-shift breaks offer beneficial reprieves from work. Your employees should be able to clock out or detach themselves from work for periods during the workday; otherwise, they will be much more likely to experience fatigue, burnout, and decreased focus or productivity. This is especially true for full-time and part-time employees who work longer shifts.
Although helpful, these daily breaks are not a substitute for extended breaks that enable the brain and the body to reset more fully. Vacation, mental wellness days, and other paid time off offer employees longer periods to be rejuvenated and rest from work. Find a balance that works well for your workplace and encourage regular and varied breaks to promote recovery from work-related stress.
Promote Recovery Outside the Workplace
Although work-related stress originates in the workplace, it rarely stays there. Unmanaged stress persists long after employees have left the workplace, and work-related stress is often exacerbated by other stressors and unhealthy rhythms outside of work. For these reasons, employers should encourage and subsidize out-of-office recovery activities promoting stress-reducing practices like mindfulness and exercise.
This may seem to reach beyond the normal responsibilities of an employer, but promoting recovery outside of work does not have to be costly or burdensome for the organization. Any investment in this area — whether minor or incremental — will pay dividends by improving employee health and productivity.
For instance, some businesses build office gyms where employees can exercise before or after work. Others may choose to make a gym membership part of their benefits package or partner with local businesses to discount the cost of gym memberships for their employees. Regardless of the method, the main thing is to find ways to encourage employees to exercise and pursue an active lifestyle outside of work.
Other creative recovery strategies include sponsoring weekly or monthly music, art, or language classes that encourage a mental focus on skills that are not work-related. Offering these opportunities is a low-stakes investment in your employees’ well-being that can help them learn to manage and counteract their work-related stress.
Create a Supportive and Collaborative Work Culture
So far, these strategies for managing stress have been primarily reactive: aimed at training employees to identify and cope with existing tension. This final point, however, is a reminder that preventing potential stressors is an invaluable stress management practice. Minimizing and mitigating stressors entails creating a supportive and collaborative workplace culture — one that is built on honesty, compassion, and empathy.
Open communication and trust between employees and supervisors are essential to a supportive work culture. Employees must know they can be honest and vulnerable with their supervisors about potential stressors without risking their job security. Work to create a safe space where employees do not feel isolated but feel connected to their fellow employees and heard and valued by their supervisors. During team meetings and one-on-one interactions, set aside time to hear from your employees and invite them to share concerns about upcoming projects or areas of high stress in their roles.
You can also reduce the likelihood of triggers and overworked employees by making the office a collaborative workplace and celebrating a team mentality among your employees. Employees are more confident, less stressed, and more productive when they know they do not have to press on alone and can turn to others for help.
Strengthen Your Business by Caring about Employee Stress
Unmanaged stress at work is not only bad for employees, but it’s also bad for business. It hurts your bottom line by adversely affecting employee performance, productivity, and longevity, creating tension and turnover in the workplace. By implementing these four United Consumer Financial Services strategies, you can strategically strengthen your business by equipping your employees to manage their work-related stress properly.