We have all seen it in the workplace: an employee is so overcome with stress that they struggle to complete work and become a distraction to others. A 2011 study commissioned by the American Psychology Assn. indicated incidents of stress are commonplace, with 36% of employees reporting feeling some degree of stress on a daily basis — and 20% feeling extremely stressed. The primary causes cited for this stress were lack of opportunities for growth and advancement (43%), heavy workload (43%), unrealistic job expectations (40%), and long hours (39%).
These employees impact the workplace significantly. A study by the American Institute of Stress shows “stress” employers incur health care costs twice as high as their non-stressed counterparts. And, those employees are estimated to cost companies $200 billion to $300 billion annually in lost productivity.
However, by following the following steps you can mitigate stress in your workplace.
1. Offer an occupational stress workshop. Show various ways that employees can cope with and address workplace stress. By doing so, you demonstrate that you care about workers, and offer practical ideas to help them deal with their stress.
2. Raise employees’ sense of participation in the workplace. Instead of pushing work off to employees, try to give them ownership of a project by getting their opinions and incorporating their ideas.
3. Increase employees’ skill levels. One of the most common causes of workplace stress is a stagnant job. To avoid this, constantly encourage employees to seek ways to improve their skills. A great way to do this is to set aside two to four hours per week during which employees can work on skill development. Not only will this help to reduce stress, it will improve the value of your workers.
4. Institute breaks. Encourage employees to take a quick break after completing an extra stressful or difficult task. Several short breaks each day can keep employees working at peak performance.
5. Use positive reinforcement. Make certain you are constantly reminding your employees of the great job they are doing. Also, when correcting behavior or direction try to reinforce it with positive affirmation.
6. Establish employee recognition. An employee recognition or appreciation program is another excellent way to lower stress in the workplace. Through these types of programs you also can institute employee appreciation days, recreation teams, awards, and more.
7. Maintain humor. One of the greatest ways to reduce stress is to maintain a sense of humor. You need to remain light hearted with employees and not convey a “this is the end of the world” attitude.
Following these tips will help you to prevent stress and improve productivity at the same time.
Michael Rich is a safety writer and researcher for Safety Services Co., a supplier of safety training materials and compliance products in North America. Learn more at www.safetyservicescompany.com.