In 2013/4, 11.3 million days were lost to stress in the UK. That means work related stress cost businesses over £6.5 billion. And this isn’t even taking into account the cost of loss of productivity whilst working due to stress. Stress affects a manager’s business profits, and therefore it should be taken seriously by them.
It’s clear that some people get more stressed than others – there are some situations which cause me to get stressed which won’t cause a co-worker to get stressed. This makes it seem like the burden is on the individual to reduce their own stress – which might actually make them more stressed.
But I want to show that a manager can make a difference to their employees’ stress levels, both through their attitude and through organisational changes that can be made.
The Facts and Figures on Stress
Stress is affecting your employee’s health. Exposure to stress has a large impact on a worker’s physical and mental health. Stress affects physical health in a range of ways: it may increase risk of cardiovascular disease, or lead to exhaustion and reduced immune function. It also impacts mental health by being a precursor to anxiety or depression.
As a result of this, employees suffering stress may either take sick days off work, or go to work but have reduced productivity. For example, a case study found out that mental-ill health costs Sainsbury’s employers over £1000 per employee per year (1/3 of which is due to absenteeism from work, 3/5 is due to loss of productivity whilst working).
This makes it clear there is both a business case and a moral case to try to reduce stress at work.
Tips for Managers
There are multiple ways for managers to help employees deal with stress at work. The best solution is to prevent people getting stressed in the first place by removing sources of stress. The next best solution is to react to employee’s stress to try and minimise the effect it has on them.
The Ideal Situation
The ideal workplace would be where employees are stress free because they have the perfect workload and work-life balance. They would be super productive because they’re 100% invested in the tasks they complete. Employees would come and leave as they please because you are trustful in the volume of work they are completing, and you’d know on the occasions they’re not at work it’s because they have something very important to do.
But in reality, for most jobs not all of this can happen. There are some tasks which need to get done that no one enjoys. It is sometimes hard to build a relationship of trust with your employees strong enough for you not to feel like they may be skiving.
This is shown by the fact that 46% of people say that their main cause of stress is excessive workload, whilst 20% say it’s due to a lack of work-life balance. If it were so easy to create the perfect workload, people wouldn’t be stressed by theirs.
What I want to offer is some simple changes to make to reduce your employee’s stress, and make their workload and work-life balance more satisfactory.
Wise words Britney...
Allow Workers To Switch Tasks Every So Often
I’ve already said that employees will always have tasks they don’t enjoy. But if you allow employees to switch tasks with each other, the number of tasks they don’t enjoy will be reduced. What’s more, they will probably be more productive at that task than their co-worker was, anyway.
Allow side projects
Allowing employees to spend some of their time on work-related-activities they feel passionate about will definitely reduce workload stress. Not only this, but the results may be great for the company. For example, Google have a 20% time project rule, meaning they can spend one day a week on their own project. This has resulted in some of Google’s most creative and best features.
Introduce a ‘Must Have’ System for Each Employee
Whether someone must leave by 4 on a Tuesday or must be in the gym at 9am once a week, here you would allow everyone some scheduled ‘time-outs’ for their out-of-work life, regardless of their workload at work.
This would help with an employee’s work life balance, as they wouldn’t feel the stress of having to get a job done before they go home, and potentially missing something important if they don’t finish the task. Also, it gives the impression that work is being tailored around the employee’s needs, which is always helpful.
Healthy Treats for the employees
Stress makes us crave unhealthy foods. Unfortunately, this has a spiralling effect because these unhealthy foods that we then eat from the vending machine make us less productive. In turn, this makes us even more stressed as we’re not getting our work done.
To stop this, make sure healthy snacks and fruits are available close by in the office. Then, when employees are looking for the closest food possible to cope with stress, it’s a snack that will actually help.
Act Positive in Stressful Situations
Your reaction to a potentially stressful situation affects your employee’s reaction. If you remain calm then your employees will probably remain calmer, as you’re acting as if the situation can be handled. This means fewer (if any) employees getting stressed. The employees’ workload may not have changed, but they will feel that it’s more achievable.
This is quite an easy step to take to reduce employee’s stress – it doesn’t require any organisational changes.
There you go: 5 simple tips to reduce stress levels of your employees at work.