Workplace stress is a normal occurrence and, in moderation, it can actually be a good thing. People who feel a healthy amount of stress experience a boost in energy and may be motivated to push through challenges. But when stress gets out of hand and employees can’t manage it, productivity suffers and morale wanes.
Today, employers may be unwittingly making it harder on their employees to manage stress: They may be allowing too many distractions in the workplace or overwhelming employees with heavy workloads. However, more and more companies also also investing in programs to improve their employees’ health and wellness to minimize workplace stress.
The 2016 Business of Healthy Employees survey from Virgin Pulse and Workforce found that one of the top well-being programs employers may adopt in the next few years is stress management. Employers can face this issue by helping their employees set wellness goals so they can better manage their stress and focus on their performance.
Here’s how to get a step ahead of workplace stress and encourage total employee well-being and growth:
1. Create a productive environment.
When employees feel that they can’t stay productive, they fall behind in their work. And the work environment can have a big impact on employees and their performance.
A Workplace Futures Team of Steelcase study of 10,500 workers in Europe, North America and Asia released in November 2014 found that employees surveyed said they got interrupted every 11 minutes. What’s most concerning was that it takes people up to 23 minutes to get back into FLOW -- a state of mind where someone is deeply engaged in one task.
So, design an office environment that is conducive to productivity and that minimizes distractions. It is very stressful when distractions are constantly cropping up. There is so much stimuli in the office that productivity suffers as a result and employees start to experience health problems.
The Workspace Futures study also found that 95 percent of the 10,500 workers surveyed said working privately was important to them, but only 41 percent said they could actually do so, and 31 percent had to leave their offices to get work completed. The solution? Equip employees with the tools they need by creating conference rooms and other open spaces for collaboration, and smaller, individual workspaces for those needing a break from the cubicle chatter.
Another issue in the workspace is the number of notifications. Emails, phone calls, text messages: All these demands for attention are hurting people’s health. An April 2015 study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology coined the term “telepressure,” which is the human urge to quickly respond to emails and messages. Of the study's 303 participants, those who obsessed most over responding reported a poorer quality of sleep and missed more work due to health problems.
One of the most desirable wellness goals is to reduce this constant need for attention. Encourage employees to turn off notifications when they need to focus and get back into their flow mindset. Also, encourage them to personalize their workspaces so they can work in a more comfortable environment.
2. Align goals and manage workloads.
Employees undoubtedly feel the pressure of big workloads, so it’s important to give them some perspective. Use a talent management program to cascade goals and show employees how their work goals are structured -- how projects are assigned and allocated, who is responsible for what and where their efforts fit in.
Provide visuals so employees can see their progress toward achieving goals and hitting expectations. They can also see progress across the entire company and each department.
This is another important wellness goal to help employees set -- to better manage workloads by prioritizing. When they can identify their priorities and focus on what’s important, they are less pressured and feel more in control.
3. Encourage more balance.
Workers who sit at their desk all day, hunched over their computers downing energy drinks and coffee, are actually far less productive than they appear. Not to mention, their health is in trouble.
Train employees to learn how to single-task instead of multitask. Multitasking drains energy and leads to decreased sharpness. The constant switching back and forth makes employees less efficient and can cause stress and mental decline. Single-tasking on the other hand increases energy and focus.
Additionally, employees need to get away between tasks from time to time. Frequent breaks have been found to be beneficial. The Staples Business Advantage Workplace Index report found that 57 percent of employers and 64 percent of employees surveyed agreed that taking adequate breaks is a key factor to their overall productivity. They also agreed that burnout is a major factor that leads to poor productivity.
Rested and refocused employees are far more engaged in their work than those chained to their desk. Emphasize the importance of stepping away.
Employers can empower their employees by setting wellness goals that aim to help them with workplace stress management. This improves the health of the staff, the morale in the office and overall performance.