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8 ways to alleviate employee stress at work

Simon Collins
Written by Simon Collins

40 percent of adults lay in bed at night feeling stressed about the events of the day. And work is a major contributing factor to that worrying statistic.

If you’re an employer, it’s important to note that stressed employees reduce company productivity, which hurts your company's bottom line. According to research by Willis Thomas Watson,

‘Employees suffering from high-stress levels have lower engagement, are less productive and have higher absenteeism levels than those not working under excessive pressure.’

So, how do you reduce employee stress so they can be happier and more productive?

1. Help employees to get off the sofa and into the gym

Exercise is one of the best ways to reduce stress. According to NHS advice,

‘Exercise is the miracle cure we've always had, but for too long we've neglected to take our recommended dose.’

But how, exactly, do you turn it into a habit? And how do you facilitate it in the workplace? Below are some ideas:

  • Set an example – try and get in shape yourself so colleagues have an example to follow.
  • Incentivise exercise – consider offering to pay for gym memberships or creating an exercise space in an unused office.
  • Try walking meetings – if it’s only a small group of you in a meeting, why not take a walk and share ideas at the same time?

2. What, exactly, is causing the stress?

When the cause of employee stress is uncovered, it will be easier to find solutions. For example, if you discover an employee feels stressed around one of their colleagues, you can begin to work on a resolution. Maybe encourage the two to work on finding where their communication is breaking down.

To uncover what is causing stress in your wider organisation, consider:

  • Asking employees about what stresses them out via anonymous questionnaires.
  • Talking to people one-on-one about how they feel about their work and the company.
  • Researching other businesses in your sector to see what causes them stress.

3. Boundaries are important

There are many benefits to the cloud and the modern workplace. We can pick up emails in the evening, work from home, and complete the project we’re passionate about at the weekend. But there’s a downside to this kind of workplace: employees aren’t taking breaks when they should.

Definite boundaries between work and your employee’s home life will help reduce stress and boost business productivity. Therefore, empowering employees to work when they want should come with education about the importance of rest, downtime, and getting quality sleep.

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4. Help employees eat healthy, nutritious food

Like getting exercise, it probably isn’t news to you that nutrition is important. But did you know that good nutrition can dramatically reduce the amount of stress we feel?

In one study, stress was reduced by 14 percent when participants ate 5-7 pieces of fruit or veg every day.

It’s a straightforward way to lower stress. To make it easier for employees to eat well, consider:

  • Educating employees on the benefits of healthy eating.
  • Provide free, healthy food, to encourage good nutrition.
  • Reduce the number of unhealthy snack and drinks machines.

5. Clarify roles and expectations

Stress in the workplace is often caused by employees getting burnt out from unclear requirements. It’s stressful when you don’t know what you're supposed to do – when timelines are fuzzy, or things are in flux.

To combat this, strive to set clear expectations so it’s clear what everyone needs to do. Try to provide guidance wherever possible and answer questions, such as:

  • How long should tasks take?
  • What standard of quality is expected?
  • What quantity of work is expected?

6. Add plants to the workplace

Studies show that adding plants to a workplace helps everyone feel more relaxed. They don’t have to be high-maintenance or expensive – just something that adds life to the environment.

7. Encourage connections

Building strong connections with other people will improve the mental health of your employees and reduce stress. It’s also important because it creates a safety net for employees if they need support.

‘If you don't connect with people, you won't have support to turn to when you need help,’ says Professor Cooper, occupational health expert at the University of Lancaster.

Friends at work will help an employee through work issues, and the more laughter there is in the office, the less stress everyone feels. Here’s more on the amazing health benefits of laughter.

8. Encourage communication

It’s important that every employee has someone ‘higher-up’ to talk with when they feel stressed at work. When management understands an employee is stressed, they can take pro-active actions to help, including:

  • Reducing workload or initiating a change in position.
  • Clarification of timeframes and what they need to achieve.
  • Open communication about any issues they might be having in or outside of work.

Happy employees + happy employer = successful business

Work is a contributing factor of stress for many people. It’s an unfortunate reality that many of us have to deal with, but there’s no need to let stress get the better of employees and damage your business. According to skillsyouneed guidelines:

‘It is important to tackle the causes of stress in the workplace as stress at work can lead to problems for the individual, working relationships and the overall working environment.’

Stress is a culture-wide problem, but you can turn it into your business’ competitive advantage. Deploy the tools in this article and you’ll help your employees become happier and more productive, and in turn, increase your business’s chance of success.

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workplace policy , workplace tools , Managers