Stress is not exactly a secret in the workplace, with even the most efficient staff members having to cope with the dreaded ‘S’ word at key times of the working year. But while it is a recognized threat to employee welfare, it also has a negative impact on productivity, stunting growth and denting the bottom line.
It seems strange that in an age where a work-life balance is readily accepted as important, stress remains such a constant threat. In Ireland, the 2019 Great Place to Work HR trend survey showed that 56% of respondent companies admitted executive stress was a key issue in their organisation.
Overcoming stress in the workplace is not just about maintaining a healthy workforce in a positive working environment; it’s equally about protecting worker performance and project progress.
Effects Of Stress At Work
Of course, over the years, a lot of research has confirmed close links between productivity and stress, with an array of negative effects on employees sapping them of enthusiasm, increasing absenteeism and lowering engagement.
In the US, the American Psychological Association (APA) says up to 77% of people regularly experience physical or psychological symptoms thanks to stress, including headaches (44%), stomach problems (34%) and fatigue (51%), with an estimated cost of $300 billion to employers in health care and lost productivity.
In the UK, the HSE revealed some 595,000 workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety over 12 months between 2017 and 2018, with 15.4 million working days lost as a result. That translates to an average of almost 26 working days lost per worker over the year.
4 Simple Steps To Overcoming Workplace Stress
So, what can be done to counter the damage that workplace stress has? Well, there are many steps you can take, but here are just four that can have an immediate positive effect on employee productivity.
- Break Tasks Down
A giant task can be overwhelming, but it is not always the root of workplace stress. It actually comes from staff only seeing the big picture. But giant tasks are really just a series of smaller tasks (or stages) so it would be far more practical to break projects down into much more manageable individual segments and have employees focus on them. That way, the likelihood of being overwhelmed is removed. This simple change results in higher quality work being done, enhancing the quality of a project overall.
- Set Clear Priorities
A hectic schedule is usually the key contributor to workplace stress, and there is much advice thrown around on how best take control of a busy work schedule. Often, however, the simplest move provides the best results, and in terms of scheduling, identifying the ‘real’ from the ‘imaginary’ must-dos is definitely the simplest move. Make sure your employees understand what the priority tasks that must be accomplished are, and what tasks they can take care of later.
- Promote A Healthy Work-Life Balance
This recommendation is hardly new, but the importance of having a healthy work-life balance cannot be understated – not least when the well-known benefits include an increase in productivity.
Devising an employee well-being programme can significantly lower stress levels. Among the best ideas to include are gym, yoga, group hiking and jogging initiatives, as well as cycle-to-work drives. Also worthwhile including are ‘good sleep’ and ‘healthy eating’ initiatives, encouraging proper rest and choosing fresh vegetables, fruit and water over junk food and snacks at work.
- Provide A Place For Calm
A recent trend in workplace management is the provision of quiet spaces where employees can take some time out to truly relax and recharge their batteries. ‘Recharge Rooms’ can vary in their design and facilities, but all have a shared purpose – allow staff to benefit from a calm environment away from the calamity of the busy workplace.
Some major brands have created quiet spaces where employees can meditate or do yoga, some have games rooms where creation is the chief activity while others still have nap rooms where 40-winks can be grabbed before the next big meeting.
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