Last time, we began a new series all about dealing with stress in the workplace. It’s an important topic. Especially when approximately 40% of employees experience persistent stress or excessive anxiety on a daily basis.
Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. over at helpguide.org has this to say: “Stress isn’t always bad. Stress within your comfort zone can help you stay focused, energetic, and able to meet new challenges in the workplace. Stress is what keeps you on your toes during a presentation or alert to prevent accidents or costly mistakes at work. But in today’s hectic world, the workplace can often seem like an emotional roller coaster. Long hours, tight deadlines, and ever increasing demands can leave you feeling worried, uncertain, and overwhelmed by stress. When stress exceeds your comfort zone, it stops being helpful and can start causing major damage to your mind and body as well as your job satisfaction.”
Indeed, common physical symptoms of stress include:
- Low energy
- Upset stomach, including nausea
- Aches, pains, and tense muscles
- Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
- and Frequent colds and infections
In fact, research has shown that chronic stress can even lead to more serious conditions such as depression, high blood pressure, and heart problems. Unfortunately, stress often goes unchecked in the workplace. Employers may not know how to recognize it, and employees may not know how to manage it.
In our first installment last time, we listed the most common ‘warning signs’ or symptoms that can be indicative of stress. It’s absolutely vital that leaders are fluent in these warning signs. Leaders have a unique opportunity in their positions to set the tone for a better working environment and to help their team members overcome obstacles to achieve happier, healthier, and more positive working conditions.
To recap, some warning signs of stress include:
- Absenteeism, escaping from work responsibilities, arriving late, leaving early
- Deterioration in work performance, more error-prone work, memory loss, trouble concentrating, missed deadlines
- Apathy, loss of interest in work
- Over-reacting, arguing, getting irritated, anxiety, depression, social withdrawal
- Deteriorating health, muscle tension, headaches, stomach problems, more accidents
- Improper eating habits (over-eating or under-eating), excessive smoking and drinking
- Fatigue, sleeplessness
There are many contributing factors to stress and in this post as well as in the post for next time, we’re going to discuss the ten most popular factors and discuss how leaders can fix the issue.
Today, let’s address the top five:
For many people, the economy feels strained, leaving them with no other choice than to live paycheck to paycheck. This unfortunately means that such people don’t have the means to create a financial cushion should they ever be laid off. In fact, many employees may stress over whether or not they’ll even receive their paychecks on time. One good way to remedy this is to educate your employees at least quarterly on the financial stability of the company. You may want to also consider providing financial stewardship resources to employees. This can take the form of lunch-and-learn programs where you bring in a financial expert, one-on-one coaching, or more robust workshops. When your employees feel financially secure, they’re able to show up to their work with 100% of their mind and heart invested because money becomes one less thing they have to worry over.
Lack of job security
Many employees question whether or not they have a future with a company. Will they ever get promoted? Will they ever get a raise? Or will they be laid off at the first downturn? These days, especially with older employees, it isn’t so easy to simply transition from one job to another. One way to remedy this is to implement regular performance reviews—preferably on a quarterly basis. This demonstrates to employees that their hard work is not being overlooked and also creates an open forum where they can discuss any challenges with or expectations of their career.
Lack of opportunities for growth and advancement
Do you know which team members are interested in advancing within the company? Who is hoping to climb the ranks to perhaps one day lead a team of their own? Unfortunately, some employees feel as if they’ll always be at the lower rungs of the company hierarchy. Consider having one-on-one conversations with your employees and get to know what their goals are. Then connect them with the right resources (be it a mentor or further training) to help facilitate their forward-motion.
Negative relationships between coworkers
According to a recent study, 67% of workers reported that having friends at work makes their job more fun and enjoyable. Human beings are social beings, which means that we crave healthy, empowering relationships the way we crave air, food, and water. In the workplace, not everyone will get along, but what you can do is identify team members who are natural-born leaders. These individuals have phenomenal interpersonal skills and can foster teamwork among your employees, ensuring that everyone feels like they belong.
Unpleasant working environment
This goes hand-in-hand with the preceding factor, since negative relationships can make for an unpleasant working environment. How to fix this? Hold team-building activities. These activities can help your employees get to know each other better, and can also help to break up routine. Celebrating people’s birthdays and other special occasions, for example, is a great way to have a bit of fun and lighten the mood in a working environment. Many other companies have started to introduce perks at the workplace such as napping rooms, on-site fitness centers, free massages, free food, and more. With a working environment like this, people will be thrilled to come to work each day.
The contributing factors to stress are many, but fortunately, so are the solutions. When leaders who are dedicated to the well-being of their employees commit themselves to creating healthier and happier working environments, they not only invest in their team but in the company’s overall well-being as well. A company can only be as strong as its moving parts, after all. Which of the five strategies above will you start implementing in the workplace to help your employees combat stress?