Workplace Wellness: Managing and Alleviating Stress in the Workplace

Stress in the workplace is a serious issue.  Many of us exist in a culture where the line between work and life is becoming increasingly blurred.  Often, stresses from the day spill into the evening until all our pressures compound into a singular mass of negative energy. According to a study published in Prevention Magazine, 73% of Americans deal with intense and massive amounts of stress on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, many of us have come to wear stress like a badge of honor. We almost accept it as a natural state - especially when in our working environment.  The reality is that stress is a leading contributor to many health problems and workplace pressure and environments can be a massive contributing factors.

Indicators and Reasons for Stress
You might be so conditioned to operating at a heightened level of stress that you're unaware of the negative impact it can have on both mind and body. Some of the indicating factors of stress are as follows.

  • Feeling anxious, irritable, or depressed
  • Apathy, loss of interest in work
  • Problems sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Muscle tension or headaches
  • Social withdrawal
  • Using alcohol or drugs to cope

Some of the main work-related reasons for employees feeling stressed:

  • Fear of being laid off
  • More overtime due to staff cutbacks
  • Pressure to perform to meet rising expectations but with no increase in job satisfaction
  • Pressure to work at optimum levels—all the time

The nine ways to reduce stress are driven by the following two ways to implement change in the workplace.

Changing the Environment to Manage Workplace Stress
Lowering stress can decrease the risk of medical conditions and can help employees feel better on a day-to-day basis. You can implement various activities to help reduce employee stress, which can improve health and morale—and productivity. As an employer, you can take several steps to ensure that the workplace is not contributing unduly to employees’ stress levels. Ensuring the work environment is safe, supportive and positive can drastically alter the mood and productivity of your employees.

  • Make sure that all workloads are appropriate. Every person has a limit and piling excessive workloads onto certain employees could lead to burnout, decreased productivity and a lack of motivation.
  • Have managers meet regularly with employees to facilitate communication. A lack of communication and understanding will increase employee stress and anxiety.
  • Address negative and illegal actions in the workplace immediately—do not tolerate bullying, discrimination or any other similar behaviors.  People should feel safe and supported within their workplace.
  • Recognize and celebrate employees’ successes. This contributes to morale and decreases stress levels.  There is no better feeling that that of appreciation. One simple acknowledgement to a pressured employee could reduce stress, elevate mode and increase productivity.

Implementing Activities to Relieve Employee Stress
Aside from addressing job-related issues, you can implement a variety of activities and initiatives to help reduce stress. Some suggestions include the following:

  • Corporate chair massages once per week, bi-weekly or monthly. It's common for massage therapists to travel to local businesses, offering 15-minute (or shorter) chair massages for a reduced rate to employees.  A short massage can equate to a whopping 85 % reduction in stress, according to studies, and this is often at no cost to the employer.
  • Provide a designated space where employees can sit quietly and use meditation or prayer to alleviate their stress.
  • Offer exercise classes—exercise is a great way to relieve and even prevent stress. Offer a variety of class times (before and after work, during lunch, etc.), as well as various types of classes—such as yoga and kickboxing.
  • Provide employees with the education and tools to manage time and tasks, to cope with daily stressors and to prevent stress from damaging their health. You can present a stress management class or provide educational materials.
  • Increase the number of paid vacation or personal days that you give to employees, and encourage employees to take the vacation days available to them each year.

Stress can originate at home or in the workplace. Avoid adding to employee stress with inefficient and frustrating policies or overwhelming workloads, and use the above suggestions to cultivate a positive and supportive workplace culture.

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