by Robin Throckmorton, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP and John Throckmorton, MS, SPHR
Do you and your staff experience stress in the workplace? Is your workplace causing the stress? How much is it costing your business? These are questions you can’t ignore, especially given how hard it is to attract and retain a talented AND engaged workforce.
People have very different ideas with respect to their definition of stress. Probably the most common is, “physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension”. Another popular definition of stress is, “a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives the demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.” – The American Institute of Stress
We all get stressed at one time or another at work for any number of reasons such as pay, workload, work-life balance, job security, work environment, or even just not being in the right job. The question is how long that stress level lasts and what impact is it having on the employee and the company?According to the American Psychological Association, 61% of people say work is a common source of the stress in their lives. And, based on research by Everest College, 83% of working Americans are stressed at work. 77% of people experience physical pain because of stress according to paralign.com. This stress in the workplace can physically impact our employees causing heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, more colds/flu, anxiety, depression, headaches, chest pains and more. But it also has a huge impact on our businesses. Stressed workers tend to be more fatigued, more likely to make mistakes or cause an injury, and more likely to be absent. According to a report by Health Advocate, stress is costing our businesses $300 Billion in worker productivity.
The good news is, as a business, you can have a positive role in helping to reduce your employees’ stress. According to the American Psychological Association, there are a few ways to reduce stress in your work environment and the scope of your employees’ jobs:
- Ensure employees’ workloads are manageable and clearly defined.
- Design jobs that are meaningful, stimulating, and provide opportunities for your employees to use their skills.
- Involve your employees in decisions that affect their jobs.
- Improve communications about growth and development opportunities for your employees.
- Provide opportunities for your employees to interact and collaborate.
- Offer flexibility in the workplace to make it easier to manage work and life (i.e. flex time, telecommute, longer lunch breaks).
The list of ways you can help minimize work related stress for your employees doesn’t stop there. Additionally, you can:
- Promote or even organize exercise breaks.
- Hold workshops on stress management, mindfulness, finances, and wellness.
- Help your employees establish boundaries around when they leave for work, how much they work, etc.
- Encourage mental breaks (i.e. Meditation Apps such as Headspace, Calm, Shine).
- Ensuring your employees get the time off they need to recharge.
- Listen and respond to employee issues that arise in the workplace.
- Establish an Employee Assistance Program and encourage employees to use it when needed.
Now don’t get me wrong, some stress is actually a motivator but ensure you and your management team are keeping tabs on when the stress crosses over from motivation.
A few things we’ve done at strategic HR, inc. to help our team manage work related stress include:
- Chair massages by Marla Cohen.
- Financial workshop by Brad Cunningham.
- Meditation and Mindfulness by Lindsey Jones.
- Yoga (coming soon) by Monica Stamper.
- Friday happy hours including lots of laughs around giant Jenga, office putt putt, and more.
- Week vacation access to owners condominium in Siesta Key Florida.
- One on one’s with the President every few weeks.
Don’t let stress in the workplace impact your business. Stop and evaluate if you have a problem with stress in the workplace through personal observation, formal questionnaire (i.e. Stress Management at Work or Workplace Stress Survey or Self-Assessments on Stress), and/or discussions with employees. Based on the results and some of the ideas in this article, begin making some changes to help reduce the stress in the workplace to a healthy level.
Robin Throckmorton, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is the President of strategic HR, inc. and definitely the pot calling the kettle black but learned a lot from writing this article and watching John Throckmorton, MS, SPHR handle stress in the workplace. If you have questions or suggestions, contact us.