Managing Employee Stress
Stress -- physical, mental and emotional wear-and-tear -- is emerging as a leading health risk of the 21st century and as a serious hazard in the workplace. Consider these:
- Disabling stress has doubled over the past six years in the United States
- One million people are absent from work every day due to stress-related problems
- Companies spend an average of $7,500 per year per employee due to stress
- 75-80 percent of workplace accidents are stress-related
Employee stress can take many forms: anxiety, aggression, irritability, dependency, withdrawal or depression. Whatever form it takes, stress can result in absenteeism, employee burnout, high turnover and reduced productivity. It can cause an increase in medical expenses, health insurance costs and workers’ compensation claims.
It is important for companies and managers to treat workplace stress like any other work-related health hazard by taking active steps to prevent and manage it. Simply dealing with the symptoms of stress when they arise isn’t enough. It is equally important to address the causes.
The first step is identifying sources of stress in your organization. Possible stressors include high workloads, organizational changes, lack of employee control, the organization’s culture and operating style, emphasis on competition, fear of job loss, increased technology and the push for multi-tasking. The best ways to gauge the sources of stress are to observe trends during high-stress periods and to get regular feedback from employees.
Once you have identified workplace stressors, here are some ways to eliminate or reduce them:
- Improve policies, procedures and practices that undermine employees’ personal power, sense of control or motivation
- Make changes in the work environment that result in increased employee involvement by giving them as much control as possible over their tasks; involve employees in setting goals, making decisions and solving problems
- Adopt new cultural and communication styles that prevent misperceptions and encourage the sharing of ideas
- Make sure employees are clear about expectations and priorities
- Keep employees apprised of changes and how those changes will affect their work in both the long and short term
- Supply employees with the resources they need to get the job done
- Consider physical changes in the work environment to make it more comfortable and user-friendly
Building Stress Resilience
Helping employees cope with personal stress, balance their home and work lives and build stress resistance can benefit your entire organization. Help your employees build strong stress management skills by taking these steps:
- Offer training programs that teach stress management techniques, relaxation, time management, positive thinking and assertiveness
- Institute flexible work schedule or telecommuting options if possible
- Be flexible, within reason, in allowing employees to take time away from work to deal with personal and family issues, which can be a considerable source of stress
- Consider providing a relaxation space in your workplace
- Be aware of yourself as a role model by demonstrating good coping and stress reduction behaviors
The Danger Signs of Acute Stress
Chronic anxiety, apathy, feelings of hopelessness, withdrawal, alcohol or drug problems, or depression all can indicate the need for immediate help. When an employee is in acute stress, it may warrant a call by the manager to your company’s employee assistance program (EAP) to decide how best to proceed.
Stress is a part of life. All organizations will have some degree of stress among their employees. The key to success is seeking solutions that target the sources of workplace stress and teaching people to cope with inevitable personal and professional stressors
This article was provided by BJC Employee Assistance Program.