If you’re in business, you understand workplace stress. Employees begin their roles with excitement and vigor, eager to prove themselves and make great strides—but over time, your sales floor, newsroom, or PR agency can easily turn into a tense hotbed of anxiety. Employee burnout, dissatisfaction, and turnover are costly and common problems both in the most stressful jobs in the United States and in corporate spaces like your own.
As an employer, how do you keep that fresh-on-the-floor excitement for each employee long after their first week on the job ends? What can you do to help your more senior employees recover from and handle ongoing workplace stress? And how can you motivate your entire company in a way that increases productivity and revenue for everyone involved?
It all starts with gaining a deeper understanding of workplace stress and establishing proven processes that attack the problem from the ground up.
What really causes workplace stress?
Stress is More Complicated Than We Think
As a CEO, Operations Manager, or Department Director, you’re no stranger to daily stress on the job. Your schedule is absurd, your deadlines are impossible, and you have a whole slew of employees depending on you for direction, personal success, and compensation. It’s sometimes hard to understand how entire cohorts of employees (who have much less responsibility) develop such high levels of work-related anxiety.
The truth is, we’re all in this together. Your stress is their stress, and their stress becomes yours.
Workplace stress is often misunderstood, so we’re here to clear some things up. Employees aren’t necessarily stressed by tight deadlines—they’re stressed because they have too many of them, all at the same time. They’re not stressed by low salaries as much as the lack of opportunity for increased salary over time. They don’t stay up at night over high expectations—they face crippling stress over unclear expectations.
Workplace Stress is Costing Your Company
These problems are clearly situated in the supervisor’s wheelhouse, and it’s up to you to create the kind of workplace that employees will enjoy day after day. If that reality is not motivating enough, consider that workplace stress costs your company an insane amount of money every year. An often-cited NIOSH study reports that up to 40% of employees found their jobs to be “very or extremely stressful”—and, translated into your company budget, that means up to 40% of your employees may be running at diminished capacity.
A statistically significant number of employees in a recent 2016 study confirmed that their jobs have a serious impact on their health. Stress has been linked with insomnia, depressed immune systems, mental health disorders, and even heart disease—all of which negatively impact job performance and translate into more workers calling in sick. Or, even worse, employees coming to work in a flu fog because they can’t justify missing a single day.
Workplace stress is costing US companies billions of dollars every year in workman’s compensation, decreased productivity, and employee turnover. It’s time to take action.
How to Lower Stress in the Workplace
10 Action Items to Implement Today
Start by making a sincere effort to understand which stressors impact employees in your company. When you determine that your employees are mainly focused on job security, high workloads, or interpersonal conflict, you’ll be ready to apply a solutions-based tool to remedy that situation. Here are some specific action items to try:
- Create clear job descriptions and revisit them once per year to ensure relevance and accuracy.
- Make health and wellness a priority for your employees and make sure they’re aware of EAPs and other stress management resources that exist.
- Perform management evaluation surveys to assess strengths and areas for improvement in managerial style.
- Encourage employees to take full advantage of their PTO days, and give careful consideration to your company-wide PTO policy.
- Set up direct lines of social support in your organization for those who feel stressed, overworked, or unheard in their jobs.
- Invest in training and give your employees more tools to succeed in both KPIs and time management.
- Shift your mandatory meeting schedule to allow your employees to have a productive start to each day or week (instead of a stressful department-wide meeting).
- Examine or establish processes for handling interpersonal conflict, especially those that occur between employees and their managers.
- Make your workplace more comfortable by creating quiet zones, relaxing dress codes, and offering employees the flexibility to work in different areas of the office space.
- Reward outstanding employee effort as often as you reward measurable successes.
The Best Way to Motivate Employees
Above all, if you were to do only one thing to improve workplace stress and motivate your employees to greater success, it would be this: incentivize, recognize, and reward. Employee recognition, when done right, is a powerful way to combat tension, negativity, and stress in the workplace. It’s a serious, positive step you can take to brighten employee outlook and make a big difference in productivity.
When it comes to programs that incentivize and reward employees, you need to be careful to choose the right one. Not all are worth your time, and even fewer have the potential to recoup the space they take in your company’s annual budget. When we recommend employee recognition as a solution, we’re not talking about ineffective points-based systems.
The right incentive program has the power to completely transform your workplace and produce a high ROI—benefits which come directly from employees who are engaged, empowered, and interested in earning recognition.
26% of survey respondents reported that they “rarely or never receive appropriate recognition or rewards for good performance” in their jobs. This is the gap between stressed, dissatisfied employees and busily productive employees. You can be part of the solution.
Our employee recognition programs have earned incredible results across a wide variety of industries and company sizes. Looking for a best-in-class solution to your workplace stress problem? Let’s talk.