It’s inevitable that both you and your employees will experience stress in the workplace. You’re bound to feel mental or emotional tension or strain – everyone does. In fact, a certain amount of stress can be a good thing. According to a Berkeley University study, “Some amounts of stress are good to push you just to the level of optimal alertness, behavioural and cognitive performance.”
But too much stress is a different story.
The Effects of Too Much Stress
When a person begins to feel too much stress, there can be some significant effects. In the beginning, too much stress may have minor physical symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and more “minor ailments” like colds and flu.
But significant stress or chronic stress can lead to much more serious health problems. Stress has been identified as a contributing factor in high blood pressure (hypertension), heart disease, stroke, obesity and more. It can also contribute to mental conditions such as anxiety and depression.
All of these can affect you and the bottom line for your business. Too much stress means higher claims on your employee benefits plan and decreased productivity.
Warning Signs of Too Much Stress
So how do you know when you have passed the “good“ amount of stress and headed towards too much stress?
Warnings signs of too much stress include:
- trouble focusing
- disinterest in life or work
- use of alcohol or drugs to cope
Reducing Stress in the Workplace
There are a number of relatively easy and cost-effective ways you can help reduce stress in the workplace for you and your employees. Wellness programs are a good starting point. Preventing excessive stress before it happens is the best strategy.
1. Focus on creating a “team” environment
Feeling that you’re truly part of a team is a powerful thing. If your employees feel included, experience camaraderie and work cohesively, they’re less likely to be overly stressed. If they do become stressed, it’s more likely that they’ll feel like they have someone to talk to. This is also a good stress reducer.
Team building doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of money on corporate retreats or outings. Simple (and inexpensive) ideas for promoting a team environment include:
celebrate work “anniversaries” with treats and recognition;
hold spirit or team days where everyone dresses in certain colours or themes; “casual” days;
create office newsletters that allow staff to showcase their interests and personalities.
2. Encourage exercise and healthy eating
Exercise and healthy eating are widely known as great tools to reduce and prevent stress. Exercise helps reduce risk factors for virtually every negative health condition. It also helps release endorphins in the brain which make people feel happy and positive. Taking care of your body by being conscious of what you’re eating also helps control obesity and contribute to better health.
Ideas for promoting exercise and healthy eating include:
create a lunchtime walking club (this also helps with the team building goal);
subsidize gym or fitness memberships;
run contests to encourage and reward people for exercising and eating healthy;
sponsor “lunch and learn” sessions on exercise and healthy eating;
start an after-work running club.
3. Promote healthy sleep and taking breaks
For optimal performance (and less stress), it’s important for employees to take breaks. Breaks allow employees to recharge and de-stress so they can focus on working. Too often employees get into the routine where they skip lunch, put off taking a vacation and forgo the sleep they need in favour of doing other things.
Promoting healthy sleep and taking breaks should start with education. Educate employees (maybe in a “lunch and learn” session or an article in the company newsletter) about the benefits of getting enough sleep and stepping away from their desks. Other ideas include:
encourage employees NOT to eat at their desks;
set limits on how much vacation an employee can carry over to the next year;
run contests with rewards for employees who reach their nightly sleep goals.
4. Provide resources and support
Giving employees access to professional resources and support is an important way to help reduce stress in the workplace. Including access to an Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) in your employee benefits plan is a great way to do this.
A good support program will provide counselling, articles and other resources so employees can help prevent over-stress and reduce the stress they already have. GroupHEALTH includes an employee and family assistance plan with all of its plans. Employees can access credible information and get help when they need it.
The employee and family assistance program even offers services such as “research requests.” Employees can submit a request for information on an everyday challenge (such as finding a local daycare provider); this directly reduces the stress employees are facing.
5. Set clear requirements and expectations
Employees who are clear about their requirements and expectations surrounding their role and their performance are less likely to become over-stressed. Not knowing these things can be very stressful. Employees may worry whether they are doing too much or not doing enough. This lack of information and expectations sets employees up for stress and burnout.
Ensuring your company provides all employees with clear expectations on their role and their work is the first step. Regular reviews with a supervisor to review these expectations, evaluate job performance and strategize to meet the expectations is a great way to help prevent over-stress.
Benefits of Reducing Stress in the Workplace
Reducing stress in the workplace benefits everyone. With less stress, employees report higher job satisfaction. Happy employees are more productive and more likely to help out when needed. If employees are your greatest asset, then happy and productive employees are a competitive advantage.
Reducing stress in the workplace can also help reduce benefit claims. Because stress contributes to so many physical and mental health conditions, less stress means lower claims.
Good Advice is Key
Reducing stress for you and your employees can make a big difference for your company. Does your employee benefit plan support stress reduction? Review your options with one of our licensed advisors on the phone or in-person or contact us for a comparison quote.
Whether you’re looking for extended health and dental coverage, disability coverage, or life and critical illness coverage, GroupHEALTH has affordable benefits packages that work as hard as you do.