Most employees deal with stress on a daily basis. Some stressful situations push workers to excel, such as trying to meet a deadline or rise above the work they did previously. However, when everyone feels as though they’re walking on eggshells and are worried about their employment, it’s probably an unhealthy environment that needs an overhaul.
Because each person handles stress differently, one employee might look overwhelmed and another collected. However, each person feels the tension and you could lose valuable employees if you don’t take steps to reduce the anxiety.
What Is the Impact of Stress in the Workplace?
Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2022 Report found 44% of employees experienced stress frequently, a number higher than the previous year’s survey results. When asked if they experienced negative emotions such as anger, worry, sadness and stress–stress ranked at the top.
What are some of the impacts of stress on work and what can employers do to improve the situation?
1. High Absenteeism
When employees feel stressed, they may seek ways to escape the situation. As a sort of self-medicating, self-protection model, workers might call in and refuse to be in the office when things are particularly tense.
If management tends to scream at staff or put excessive pressure on them, they’ll either remove themselves physically or disconnect mentally. If your company has a high absent rate, consider if stress might be driving your employees to call in when they’d otherwise be present.
2. Loss of Productivity
Marketing firms are leading the way in figuring out ways to improve results and productivity. For example, one study showed adopting an agile marketing approach improved productivity. In a survey of firms, researchers found 62% stated better productivity as a benefit of agility.
Imagine the average worker showing up to the office on a typical day. Perhaps they have other stress in their lives–a sick family member, worries about their children and struggling to make ends meet. Then, they face a high-stress position with clients demanding things, management screaming at them and not making nearly enough for all the abuse they suffer.
You can see how they have a hard time coping with the level of stress found in many office settings. Fortunately, you can train leadership and employees to recognize and solve stress, making it a positive force in your company culture rather than a detriment.
3. Lack of Energy
Some people take the stress of the office home with them. For particularly dedicated employees, they might replay mistakes over in their minds and worry late into the night about how to solve a particularly difficult problem.
Stress can keep your staff from getting proper rest. When they show up to work the next day, they’ll be tired and lack energy. Such exhaustion builds over time and they’ll make mistakes, feel burned out and want to leave before their work is finished.
4. Health Concerns
Stress can also cause an entire host of health concerns, such as headaches and high blood pressure. If an employee’s health begins to suffer from workplace stress, they will either feel poorly and be unable to work at their maximum ability or they will look for a way out of the situation.
You could lose your top performing workers and have a high churn rate. Make employee well-being a top priority. Check in on how they’re feeling. Invite them to get wellness checks on site if they want. Start wellness programs, such as a yoga class at lunch, encouragement for health eating and adopting other healthy habits.
What Can You Do to Improve the Stress at Work?
If you recognize some of the signs listed as being a problem at your company, what can you do to turn things around? Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to improve the situation and reduce anxiety at the office.
1. Allow Remote Work
Show your top employees you trust them to always do their best and allow them to work remotely. Experts predict around 25% of the workforce will be fully remote in 2023, with the number continuing to grow beyond that level as time goes on.
People need an escape from office stressors management can’t always control, such as loud co-workers and cliques that exclude a few people. When you let people work from home at least a few days a week, you remove them from difficult situations. They’ll naturally feel less stressed and ready to face new challenges.
2. Support Healthy Changes
In a survey of adults between 18 and 89 years old, researchers found 52% want to exercise more, 50% want to eat healthier and 40% want to lose weight. In the list of responses, reducing stress at work also ranked in the top 10.
Ask your employees how you can best support their goals. Would adding a couple of voluntary time off (VTO) days be helpful? Perhaps you could offer VTO so they could volunteer at their favorite local charity?
Do they need more personal days to better juggle family life and work? Would a couple of early release days be helpful so they can attend a program at their child’s school or help an older parent get to a doctor’s appointment? Look for ways to build in flexibility and reduce stress in other areas so they can better handle anxiety at the office.
3. Recognize Triggers
Talk to your employees about what things trigger anxiety for them. Just because Stan dislikes the noise of the office and finds it gives him a headache every day doesn’t mean it bothers Ashley. Two people’s triggers may be quite different.
You’ll need to work with each staff member and come up with ideas to reduce their stress in ways that work best for them. For one person, handling triggers may mean knowing when to take a break. For another it could mean having a mentor to talk things through with.
4. Encourage Paid Time Off (PTO) Use
When a company is in growth mode, you may experience one huge project after another. It might seem like you need your top employees there at all times. However, if you don’t prioritize their well-being, you may wind up losing them to health issues or another employer anyway.
While employees should try to achieve a good work/life balance, employers also must make the company culture one that encourages the use of PTO for mental health breaks and to get out of the stress for a few days.
The last thing you want is for your top workers to burn out and leave or quit to regain their health. Pay attention to who is using their PTO and when they need a push and a reminder that it’s okay to take some time off. Reward them with a gift card to a local resort or give them a travel stipend so they feel more inclined to get away and destress for a bit.
Reducing Stress Benefits Everyone
When you reduce stress in the office, a better work environment benefits everyone and the company itself. Your workers will feel fresh and more creative. You’ll experience less unexpected absenteeism. Your employees will feel refreshed, respected and be less likely to leave you for a competitor. Try improving stress and see how productivity and quality soar.
About the Author: Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a digital marketing agency before becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philadelphia with her husband and pup, Bear.