by Alan Kohll
Employee stress is a problem. For every employee. At every company.
Stress naturally occurs in the workplace. When left unchecked, it can wreak havoc on employee health and productivity.
In fact, stress has been associated with physical problems like a weakened immune system, stomach aches, high blood pressure, hair loss and headaches. It can also cause problems with concentration and teamwork—and ultimately productivity.
So what can you do?
How can you fight stress at work and avoid all those negative consequences? By addressing the problem head on. Reduce the impact of stress in your office with any of these 25 workplace stress busters.
Exercise is an age-old stress buster. Organize groups to take short walks throughout the day at work. You might have one group that heads out for a stroll over the lunch hour—or maybe a group that fights the afternoon slump with a walk around the block. Regardless of when, where or how long, offering employees the option to take a short walk during the workday can be an excellent break, as well as the exercise boost they need.
Switch To Decaf
Caffeine can be a natural anxiety booster. It gets the energy and emotions flowing and can really increase stress. Most people need a little caffeine to get them going in the morning, but after lunch it isn’t usually necessary. Consider switching the break room coffee pot to decaffeinated coffee in the afternoon. That way, you aren’t adding caffeine into potentially stressful situations—which is like adding gasoline to a fire.
Weekly Stress Busters
Stress-busting activities are not only designed to relieve stress, but looking forward to those activities can be a form of stress relief as well. You can get employees bought into stress relief activities by bringing them into the workplace. You might consider bringing a yoga instructor into the conference room on Friday afternoons. Or maybe have a masseuse set up a table in the lobby on Wednesday mornings. You could even scatter mindful adult coloring books throughout the breakroom.
Open Door Policy
You’d be surprised at the amount of stress that stems from a lack of communication. Many people aren’t stressed by the work they’re doing, but by the uncertainty regarding the project as a whole—or by the work of those they’re partnering with. Encouraging employees to approach their supervisors and leadership teams with questions and concerns helps to ease that uncertainty. It provides an effective method for voicing frustrations and getting questions answered.
The words you choose in the workplace play a huge role in the overall corporate culture. Happier words lead to a happier culture and happier employees. So choose positive messaging. Positive messaging means using words and communication that bring about positive interactions. It involves being personal, encouraging, passionate and empowering in your interactions.
It might seem trivial, but how you decorate the office can actually impact employee stress. Brighten up the spaces with natural light and colors. It can also be helpful to allow employees to set up, organize, decorate and even paint their own workspaces. The more personalized their space, the more comfortable they’ll feel at work.
The more people move, the healthier they’ll be. Their bodies will work better—which will help their minds work better as well. Moving throughout the day can also be a welcomed break from a stressful work schedule. Active design is an approach to the development of your office space that makes daily physical activity more exciting and inviting. It’s basically designing your corporate space to subtly encourage employees to move more throughout the day.
Two huge sources of workplace stress are work-life balance and a lack of control over daily tasks. Allowing employees to set their own schedules addressed both of those common stressors. When employees choose their schedules, they’ll set a schedule that works with their lives at home. Dropping kids of at 8 a.m.? Work day starts at 8:15. No problem.
Your employees should be able to solely focus on the job you’ve hired them to do. They shouldn’t have to allocate any time or effort to deciphering the messages they receive from management. It’s important that the communication coming from leadership teams is clear. Whether it’s meetings, emails or memos. Expectations need to be defined and questions need to be answered.
A lot of stress is caused by the constant nature of the digital communication channels we use. Even when attempting to focus on one project, employees can be bombarded with notifications from a million different digital platforms. Consider making one afternoon each week an “unplugged afternoon.” Encourage employees to silence phones, sign out of email and shut down messaging systems. Allow them a quiet afternoon to tackle their work with no distractions.
Hangry employees cause stress—to themselves and to their coworkers. On the same note, employees who snack on greasy or sugar-loaded foods are likely to crash and burn in the energy department. A simple solution? Healthy snacking. Providing healthy snacks at work—or encouraging and educating employees about healthy snacking—can help to give employees a healthy energy boost. Healthy snacks fuel the body without causing harm down the road.
Hearing or reading just the right inspirational quote at just the right time can quickly turn your day around. It can help you fight the stress by giving you a new, positive mindset. If you’re wary of plastering your office walls with Pinterest quotes, that’s okay. There are more subtle ways to go. For example, you can put a quote in each employee newsletter you send out. Or maybe post a “Quote of the Week” on the bulletin board in the breakroom.
There’s nothing more stressful than wasted time. Any meeting whose contents can be addressed in an email should be canceled. At all costs, avoid meeting with your employees “just to meet.” If you’re doing your job right, they have much better things to do with their time. So let them. If a meeting isn’t necessary, and you can clearly portray the message with another form of communication, don’t drag your employees to the conference room.
Most employees know their role in an organization—they know what they were hired for. Unfortunately, many employees don’t know what’s expected of them in that role. Yes, their duties might be clear. But how, when and why they’re supposed to take care of those duties might be a mystery. Make sure employees understand what’s expected of them so they aren’t stressing out about something that’s actually irrelevant to them.
A kind word can be a very simple stress reliever. Sometimes, at work, you can’t actually take away the source of the stress. Stress is just present in some workplaces due to the nature of the work. You can provide stress relief by taking a completely different approach with a compliment. Offering a sincere kind word to someone struggling with stress can help snap them out of their negative mindset and provide a small bright spot in the midst of their stress.
Organize Shared Spaces
Employee stress can be magnified in an unorganized environment. Obviously, employees will keep their individual work spaces how they’d like to. When it comes to shared spaces, though, keep them neat and tidy. The break room, bathrooms, copy room and supply areas should be easy to navigate. Resources should be accessible. And nobody should trip on a stack of copy paper near the doorway.
Line of Sight
Stress can be inevitable at work. When employees don’t see or understand why they’re putting up with the stress, it simply makes things worse. It’s important that each employee has a line of sight from their role to the greater good of your client-base. They need to understand just how the things they do make an impact. If they can see the “why” behind what they’re doing, the stress doesn’t seem quite so bad.
Creating a fun work environment can be one of the best ways to combat stress. A flash mob—or something similar—can be just the stress-relief recipe your employees need. Clue them in on the surprise if you’d like. For example, send an email to all of your employees saying, “Mini Zumba session in the parking lot in five minutes. Be there!” Then watch as your employees flood in to enjoy the 10-minute dance workout you’ve prepared.
Puppy Play Day
People love puppies—and actually puppies are proven stress-relievers. Harness their adorable super powers by bringing puppies into the office for a day. You could either let your employees bring their own puppies for a “Bring Your Pet to Work” day, or work with a local therapy animal group to “rent” some fluffy stress-relievers for a few hours.
It can really magnify employee stress to be trapped in one building all day long. Lunchtime is a natural break in the day—and it can be a huge mental health booster to actually take that break. Encourage your employees to get out of the office for lunch. If they can’t get out of the office, create an inviting breakroom space. A change of scenery in the midst of stressful activities can help to re-energize your employees and help them manage their workplace stress.
Be A Resource
Easy projects can be made stressful when resources aren’t up to par. If your employees don’t have what they need to do their jobs well, they will have lots of stress at work. It’s inevitable. So give them what they need. Be sure your employees have all of the necessary supplies and resources to do their jobs. When they ask for new equipment or tools, seriously consider their requests. If budgeting is an issue, meet them in the middle and explain to them the solutions you’re offering.
Focus On Others
Your own little world can be a stressful place—don’t get stuck there. And don’t let your employees get stuck in their own little worlds. Force them to step outside of that world and think about something else by going out into the community. Every once in a while, have a community service day. Go out in groups and help others. It’s easy to find volunteer work to do no matter where you live. The simple act of helping others can help provide some perspective. Perspective is one of the greatest stress relievers.
Be a good note-taker. When you make a decision or complete a task, it can seem clear at the time why you chose to do things in a particular way. Later down the road, as you’re dealing with the repercussions of that decision, the details can be difficult to remember. That unknown causes an incredible amount of employee stress. So take good notes, and keep them until the project has been completed, evaluated and followed up on.
Invest In Technology
It can be expensive up front, but things like speedy internet connection, updated tools and gadgets, and reliable software services are important. Technology can be our greatest friend. It can also be the greatest enemy—and a huge cause of stress in the workplace. It will be completely worth it to put in the time and money to have technology that works for you and your employees, instead of the other way around.
Steve Jobs is credited with the quote, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” Your employees are your greatest asset and your greatest resource. You hired each of them for a reason. Trust that reason. When they step in the door, let them do their job—even if it may be done differently than how it was done by someone else. Only interject if it’s actually helpful to do so.
Employee stress is a challenge faced by every company. Be the one that stands out by standing up against stressful work situations. Employees who manage their stress are mentally healthier. They can do their jobs better.
As you can see there are lots of ways to reduce stress at work. Try putting any of these 25 to the test where you work today.