Did you know that work is the second most common source of stress after money? Worries about workload, job security, or work/life balance can all take a toll on your employees, causing symptoms such tension and irritability, inability to make decisions or concentrate, feelings of powerlessness and anger, physical ailments, and risky behaviors such as increased use of alcohol and drugs or even violence-- none of which make for a happy and productive workplace.
Of course, certain industries and work environments--such as restaurants, emergency rooms, and retail stores--can be inherently stressful, and every employee has his or her own threshold for tolerating and managing stress. And facing challenges at work or short-term bouts of stress can be part of building a career. However, left unresolved, workplace stress can damage your bottom line.
As a manager, there are things you can do to help employees cope. Stress management should be an important part of your overall health and wellness efforts. Your individual solutions will be unique to your business, but use the ABCs as your guide.
Senior executives and managers need to recognize when workplace stress is hampering morale and productivity, and publicly commit to addressing the problem.
Meet with your managers and employees at all levels to find out precisely what is causing them stress. It could be unrealistic deadlines, lack of training or management support, or being understaffed. Candid responses are essential, and employees must be assured that they will not be penalized for feedback. Ask your employees what they suggest to improve the situations that trigger stress. If necessary, hire an outside party to conduct the session so your employees can speak freely. Let them know that feedback is an ongoing process, and you want to keep the lines of communication open.
As you implement programs, you need to get creative. Consider adjusting work hours, shifting employees internally or hiring part-time help for crunch periods. Give extra breaks during the day to allow your employees to stretch and refocus, and make it fun. Your break room is a great spot to foster personal interaction, so if your business allows, make it an engaging place to be with fun lighting, comfortable seating, or even a billiards, ping pong, or foosball table to let your employees blow off steam. Far from being time-wasters, these features can foster teamwork and creative thought. If it's solitude your employees seek, offer them a quiet space to rest and recharge. You can also host informal, company-sponsored opportunities for employees to bond and socialize outside of work, such as a pizza party, bowling night, or trip to a sporting event.
Finally, remember that in some cases workplace stress may be part of a more serious psychological issue or disorder. This is not something to ignore or assume will get better on its own. Employees who are struggling should be handled with care and referred to an employee assistance program, or EAP, for professional assistance. For more information on workplace stress, employee wellness, and EAPs, visit us online at HR360.com.