If you’ve worked in any type of office environment whatsoever, the fact that eight out of ten workers report being stressed by at least one aspect of their jobs should come as no surprise. Oddly enough, the underlying reason for this stress is the fact that American society actually values stress; the perception – unfair or not – is, the busier the worker, the more important the work (and the more valuable the employee). So we’ve got people knocking themselves out to get ahead in jobs that only stress them out. How counterintuitive is that?
As a manager, it your responsibility to try to mitigate this. Below are some tips you can use to try to ease workplace stress.
- Ensure you have realistic expectations of your employees. When people are asked to take on work they are inexperienced with or unqualified for – especially when they lack support from managers or coworkers – stress levels tend to rise. Giving them more work than they can reasonably complete in an eight-hour day can also compound stress. Learn to recognize the signs of stress: incomplete or inaccurate work, missed deadlines, and decreased productivity. When an otherwise exemplary employee’s quality and quantity of work begin to slip, acknowledge that they may be coping with too much and ease up on their workload if possible. Adjust deadlines where you can, and offer to meet with them to prioritize their work.
- Establish regular working hours – and abide by them. Some employees view the traditional 9 to 5 schedule as more of a suggestion, and tend to skip lunch, stay late, come in early, or take work home in order to complete it on time. While there may be an occasional tight deadline where this is necessary, in most cases the work can wait a few hours or an extra day. Having that time off the clock to unwind and mentally recharge is a crucial stress-reliever. When an employee misses a meal, their stress can double – you’ve heard the phrase “hangry,” we’re sure! Set a regular schedule and make sure employees abide by it.
- Encourage your employees to learn new skills. As technology evolves, the needs of the modern workplace often change. Rather than relegating your employees to one specific role and hiring new people to handle the changed workload, encourage them to learn new skills via online training platforms or career classes. This will demonstrate that you value them as people, and will help break up the monotony of the day-to-day work to which they have become accustomed. Many people appreciate a challenge, and learning new skills keeps them relevant in a changing marketplace.
- Consider nontraditional work arrangements. Nowadays, many jobs can be done quite efficiently anywhere there is an internet connection. Allowing your employees to telecommute, even once or twice a week, can help ease the stress of dealing with things like traffic and interruptions in a busy office. Studies show that employees working remotely actually demonstrate improved productivity and are happier. Happy = less stress.
- Reimburse for exercise and meditation. Hitting the gym on your lunch hour or after work is a great way to burn off energy and ease stress. Plus, it’ll improve your health, which in itself can help eliminate stress. Offering company perks such as free or discounted gym memberships, yoga or meditation classes, and wellness seminars can go a long way toward easing your employees’ stress.