High levels of stress can compromise the quality of your employees' work. It is also a leading cause of absenteeism and can ultimately cost you as the owner, manager or team leader. Stress reduction exercises can also be time-consuming, so how do you strike a balance? Ultimately, the goal is to reduce employee stress without sacrificing on efficiency or consuming too much time. Here are some ways to do it:
1. Provide clear instructions and job descriptions.
Poor instructions and inadequate job descriptions contribute to confusion, uncertainty, and mistakes, all of which cause stress. Make sure that all employees understand their roles and feel confident about their ability to perform or learn to perform their duties.
Provide clear instructions for all tasks. To reduce mistakes and the need for hasty do-overs, implement best practices amongst managers and employees, such as having employees repeat or summarize the task at hand based on the instructions, prior to beginning work. This provides managers an opportunity to correct any misunderstandings before work begins. Remember, even the clearest of instructions can be interpreted differently by individuals!
2. Put systems in place to streamline workload.
Invest in good systems management. Inefficient systems contribute to employee stress needlessly. For every repeatable goal within categories such as sales, business development, customer relations, production, make sure there is a system in place to manage and record tasks from start to finish.
Automate tasks whenever possible to reduce the workload on mindless tasks and to save your employees' brainpower for higher priority items.
3. Set time boundaries for checking email.
Stress builds up when employees are not given time to decompress and return to work refreshed. Prior to the technology boom, it was difficult for employees to take their work home with them, but now they can't get away from it! Make it clear to all managers, team leaders and employees that email does not need to be checked outside of certain windows of time.
For instance, you might declare Sunday an email free day, prohibiting people from both sending or responding to email. Another common practice is making email response nonmandatory outside of a time window like 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
4. Get office plants.
This may seem like a small item, but don't be fooled into thinking it's not important! Keeping office plants, at least one in every space helps to reduce employee stress for an extremely small investment of time and money.
There are many studies that show that office plants reduce stress, improve air quality, and may even improve productivity If your office has limited or no light, do not worry: there are plenty of plants that can survive on little to no light, including the ZZ plant.
5. Pay for meditation classes.
Another best practice is to encourage employees to take meditation classes by covering the cost in its entirety, or at least a portion of it. Meditation has been proven to be one of the most effective stress reduction techniques, and can also boost employee productivity by enabling them to remain calm under pressure. Transcendental Meditation, or "TM", has long been a perennial favorite of successful companies.
6. Make it mandatory to take vacation days semi-annually or annually.
In the same vein as limiting email hours, creating an incentive to step away from work for vacation days or paid-time off is important. This may seem counterintuitive from a productivity standpoint, but several studies, as well as case studies in other countries, illustrate that productivity actually increases when employees take extended time off. No, you don't have to insist on sending employees to rehab centers for them to take time off.
Instead decide on the number of vacation days you feel would most benefit employees on a semi-annual or annual basis and incentivize taking that time off and express this in terms of minimums, not maximums. Using language like, "you need to take a minimum number of days," as opposed to, "you can take up to a maximum number of days" conveys the importance of that time off. Make sure your management and team leaders lead by example by taking time off. You may also choose to incentivize using paid time off with a bonus.
Proper organization, boundaries, incentivization and a few office plants can go a long way to reducing employee stress and improve overall health without affecting your bottom line. In fact, stress reduction will have a positive impact on your company culture, employee health, productivity, and profitability!
About the Author
Dr. Vikram Tarugu is a board certified gastroenterologist and hepatologist with vast experience in endoscopic procedures. He has authored various articles and publications relating to gastrointestinal disorders and addiction related issues and writes for detoxofsouthflorida.com