Stress impacts everyone in some form or fashion, but long-term stress can have serious consequences on an individual’s health. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, consistent, long-term stress — whatever the underlying cause — can prevent the body from returning to its “normal” state of function, harming the cardiovascular, sleep and reproductive systems, among others, leading to greater health issues, ranging from heart disease to high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases to diabetes.
And one of the greatest sources of stress for many sufferers? The workplace. The World Health Organization notes that workplace stress is not only damaging to employees’ mental and physical health, but it also negatively impacts the workplace and organisation in general. Maybe that’s why so many employers are now looking for solutions to decrease workplace stress, as well as burnout and turn over. But doing this is much easier said than done.
Wondering how to help your team manage stress at work, benefiting both them and your company in the process? Here are a few suggestions on how to take better care of your employees’ mental health.
The Importance of Alleviating Stress from Within Your Organization
Yes, as noted, sometimes stress can be positive. It can force employees to meet deadlines, achieve a greater potential and work together as a team to get things accomplished. Stress can make you more alert and increase performance in certain situations. However, this stress remains beneficial only if it’s doled out in short doses. Long-term or chronic stress can cause all of those health issues mentioned above, but also larger mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
How will your employees’ stress impact you and your organisation? For starters, increased stress will result in greater absenteeism and employees taking more sick days. However, beyond this, you’re also going to see greater signs of burnout, an occupational phenomenon that the World Health Organization says is the result of chronic workplace stress that hasn’t been successfully managed.
Not only does this impact your employees’ health and mood, but data also shows that it can heavily impact your company’s bottom line, as well as the world economy as a whole. The World Economic Forum estimates that costs associated with burnout-related turnover and lower productivity reach up to $322 billion annually. Depression and anxiety linked to burnout can cost the global economy up to $1 trillion.
But Where is All That Work Stress Coming From?
Before you can alleviate this very serious issue, though, you have to understand where work stress comes from, and the common sources of chronic work stress. There are a few workplace trends that go hand-in-hand with high levels of burnout and workplace stress. These include:
Low salaries for your team
Excessive workloads where everyone is constantly overworked
Few opportunities for employee growth or advancement
Work that doesn’t engage or challenge your employees
A lack of social support and team engagement within your organisation
A lack of control and responsibility given to the team for job-related decisions
Unclear performance expectations from management
Conflicting orders from management
If you know that these issues exist within your organisation, it’s time to address them, for both the health of your team and your company.
Easy Ways to Tell Your Team is Experiencing Stress
Don’t think that you’re dealing with any of the above issues within your organisation? Your team still might be dealing with stress that you’re not aware of. There are a few ways that you can keep an eye on your team’s mental health and a few signs that you can watch for. Do you notice your team…
Consistently expressing feelings of worry or anxiety?
Showing signs of being overwhelmed by their day-to-day activities?
Not able to concentrate on their tasks?
Exhibiting quickly shifting moods on a regular basis?
Showing signs of irritability or having outbursts in the office?
Exhibiting an inability to relax during social events?
Unable to take credit for a job well done and constantly pushing themselves to be better?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above, your team may be dealing with undue stress.
What Can You Do When Your Team is Stressed?
If you know your team is stressed, how can you help alleviate some of that stress, beyond making organisational changes such as lessening work loads, raising salaries and providing employees with more autonomy? If those types of changes aren’t in your power, there are some other things you can do.
Teach employees how to manage their own stress
Your employees’ stress could be simply a matter of them never really having to learn how to manage their stress on their own. If the workplace is the first environment where they’ve encountered this type of mental health challenge, they may be at a loss as to how they can manage their emotions. Make it known to your employees that they can set their priorities at work and then empower them to do so. Enable them with time management tools and encourage them to reach out to the rest of the team if they’re feeling overwhelmed and like they cannot perform their role to the best of their ability.
Take a closer look at management’s behaviour
Sure, you might not be able to entirely change out your management staff for one that might be better suited to managing your organisation’s mental health needs, but you can take a closer look at management’s behaviour, for small ways you can encourage changes.
Push your managers to be transparent, respectful and friendly when dealing with their subordinates, and check in on what expectations they’re imposing on their teams. Are they setting realistic expectations? How are they dealing with team members who don’t meet those expectations? Consequences should be fair, not severe.
Encourage healthy practices outside of the workplace
Encourage your team to practice healthy lifestyle choices outside of the workplace as well. This includes getting sufficient sleep at night, disconnecting from technology for a sufficient amount of time each evening and making healthy food and drinking choices.
One way you can better support this? Don’t ask for your employees’ time or attention outside of normal working hours.
Support employee development
Everyone wants to work in an environment where they feel supported in improving and progressing their career. After all, as noted, one of the key stressors for employees in the workplace is the inability to grow or advance. Support your employees’ aspirations by organising workshops, events and training opportunities that can help them get there (and be sure to check out Flow’s workshops, too!).
Encourage time off
All of your employees should be using all of their vacation days and personal days. Employees who get away from the office come back refreshed and ready to work. Not only should you be encouraging your employees to take all of their time off, but you should also be encouraging them to take all of their lunch breaks and other breaks throughout the day.
Be flexible regarding working hours and locations
Everyone has different life demands outside of work. If you have an employee (or several) who would be more productive, happier and less stressed working from home or working abnormal hours, explore the possibilities of allowing this.
Offer social activities
Team building is an important part of any workplace. A team that plays together works well together. Offer social times and activities for your team to relax and enjoy one another’s company — but remember, this time should be during normal working hours, so as not to take away from your employees’ lives outside of the workplace.
Prevent Your Team From Becoming Stressed in the First Place
But what if you could prevent your team from feeling stressed and burnt out in the first place? Wouldn’t that be better than trying to fix the problem once it occurs? You can better prevent future workplace stress among your employees by adding a wellness program to your workplace benefits.
Flow offers unique solutions to companies and individuals seeking relief from stress, anxiety and burnout, and using Flow regularly can help prevent stress from becoming too overwhelming and chronic. Using virtual reality meditation, Flow empowers users to enjoy the benefits of meditation without the need for a difficult-to-master, lengthy traditional meditation process.
Outfit your employees with the Flow virtual reality experience, the Flow mobile app, web portal and workshops. You’ll see the results almost immediately, as your employees report reduced stress, better sleep, healthier interpersonal relationships and increased focus. Join the 50-plus companies who’ve fallen in love with Flow to date and explore our customisable subscription programmes.