5 Strategies to Address Employee Stress in the Workplace
By Yesa Yu
“The next economic era demands new ways of working that harness human potential. Competitiveness and success in the future economy will require the harnessing of human talent and energy, by supporting all of us to be healthy, resilient, motivated, and engaged in our work. To survive, compete, and innovate in the future economy, individuals need to be at the top of their game; in other words, at their optimal state of wellness in all its dimensions.”
–The Future of Wellness at Work, a 2016 report by the Global Wellness Institute
Stress and work-life balance are universal concerns of workers and employers around the world. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) declared employee stress a hazard of the workplace that costs American industry more than $300 billion annually. The effects of a stressed-out workforce include increased absenteeism, reduced productivity and employee turnover—and of course exorbitant medical and insurance costs.
Here are just a few of the stress demonstrating how it became a top deterrent to a well workforce:
- Surveys conducted by Regus, a provider of professional business environments, found that 53 percent of workers are experiencing rising levels of stress and 59 percent say their job is a cause of stress.
- Global professional services firm Willis Towers Watson found that employee stress was the number one workforce risk faced by employers across 15 countries.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named work-related stress as the leading workplace health problem in the United States, ranking above physical inactivity and obesity.
Employers and employees both realize that people bring their highest value to work when they are physically, mentally and emotionally healthy. Corporate wellness programs must take a multidisciplinary approach to stress management. Here are five strategies to tackle stress head-on and create a healthier workforce by design.
1. Design a Healthy Workplace
Everyone has a right to feel safe and healthy at their workplace. The path to designing an environment free of unnecessary stressors begins with the basics—clean air and water. Ergonomic workstations, toxic-free office supplies, and cleaning products are also great places to start. Many companies are making incremental changes in workplaces and workspaces to promote employee wellness and encourage healthy behaviors such as ergonomic workstations, nap/meditation rooms, cafeterias with healthy food options, fitness facilities, bike sharing, and outdoor walking paths.
2. Embrace New Technologies
“Technology, data, and increased insight into what encourages employees to stay healthy is shaping the future of corporate wellness programs,” according to Edward Buckley, founder of Peerfit, which connects employers and fitness centers. In an effort to remain competitive and current with wellness initiatives and perks, an increase in technology’s presence in worksite wellness is inevitable. Corporations are also embracing wellness tools driven by technology. An example is the O2CHAIR—a clinically-validated wellness tool that optimized breathing to decrease employee stress.
3. Customize Employee Stress Management Programs
As each individual is different and, so their steps to reducing employee stress. Joyce Odidison, the founder of Interpersonal Wellness Services, Inc., a leadership and life coaching training institute, says that when she speaks to organizations about their wellness programs, there is often an overwhelming number of options.
“I say, ‘Tell me about your wellness program,’ and they say, ‘Well, we have 150 different things that people can choose from,’” Odidison says. How can employees know about all of them? After a while, they lose interest because they don’t have the time to research everything available to them.
4. Develop an Online Support Network
Online resources such as wellness portals help employees stay up-to-date and establish interconnectivity. “Employees will be more likely to become engaged in wellness when it is at the access of their fingertips—especially with the growing number of employees teleworking, says Alan Kohll is the founder and president of health and wellness service provider, TotalWellness. Millennial-friendly YouEarnedIt is an employee engagement platform that integrates wellness incentives with employee engagement “gamification” activities. Workers are motivated and engaged by earning points that can be redeemed for prizes.
5. Create an Authentic Culture of Wellbeing
At its best, work can be a source of fulfillment, creativity, effectiveness, and joy. The key is to genuinely build a culture of care. To address stress, employers typically offer classes (e.g., yoga, meditation/mindfulness, time management, stress management, etc.), counseling, or perks and on-site amenities (e.g., nap pods, quiet rooms, free massages, games/activities). To truly promote work-life balance, however, corporations must create an authentic culture of wellbeing. Human resources cannot create this in a vacuum; it requires commitment at every level of your organization.
The Bottom Line
Unmanaged stress in your company erodes productivity, morale, and profitability. A successful corporate stress management program needs to encompass all the dimensions of wellness – physical, mental, emotional, social, environmental, and spiritual. Helping your employees cope with both immediate stressors, as well as encouraging employees to find ways to decompress on their own, will both be priorities.
About the Author
Yesa Yu, VP of Sales for O2CHAIR USA. The revolutionary O2CHAIR is an essential corporate wellness tool to support optimal breathing. The 2017 Gold-Medal Winner at the prestigious French Inventors competition Concours Lépine, the O2CHAIR is clinically-proven to reduce stress and increase vitality. O2CHAIR is endorsed by wellness experts and world-class athletes. [email protected].