Work-related stress has doubled over the past six years and is a leading health risk. Each year more than $200 billion is lost due to employees who experience stress on the job.
It's not hard to understand why there's more workplace stress. Technology has sped up turnaround time, access to information and receipt of payment. Time is money and quicker work equals more bucks.
Other stressors include a bad economy, greater workloads, organizational culture, lack of employee control, the organization's operating style, emphasis on competition, fear of job loss and the push for multitasking.
Employee stress takes many forms and impacts both individuals and organizations. It has resulted in reduced productivity, absenteeism, burnout, turnover and increased medical and health insurance costs.
You can help your employees by identifying and addressing the causes of stress at work. Doing so helps both employees and the organization. The best way is observing trends during high stress periods and communicating regularly with employees.
Here are other ideas to help prevent undue stress:
* Review and work to change policies, procedures, and practices that might affect employees' trust levels and motivation.
* Increase employee control over their tasks. Involve them in setting goals, making decisions, sharing ideas and solving problems.
* Make sure employees are clear about expectations and priorities.
* If possible, reduce workloads, extend deadlines, provide resources or find a more efficient way of getting things done.
* Keep employees apprised of changes and how those changes will affect their work, both in the long and short term.
* Consider physical changes in the work environment to make it more comfortable, ergonomic and user-friendly.
* Make sure employees take their breaks so they can unwind, socialize and are refreshed.
* Switching jobs, utilizing employees' strengths or passions, can reduce stress, re-energize employees and make a company stronger.
* Offer education programs that teach stress management techniques, relaxation strategies, time management and positive thinking.
* Institute flexible work schedules or telecommuting options, if possible.
* Be flexible, within reason, in allowing employees to take time to deal with unresolved personal and family issues.
* Provide a relaxation space in your workplace where healthy snacks, exercise equipment, CD's, magazines, games and so on are available.
* Be aware of yourself as a role model. Try to demonstrate good coping and stress-reduction behaviors.
* Most importantly, treat your people right. Lead by practicing the "Golden Rule" every day.
All organizations will have some degree of stress, especially in this economy. The key is to seek solutions that target the sources and teach people to cope with stressors that are inevitable.
Remember, when employees are happy they are more productive and therefore employers are happier, too. It's a win-win solution.
Brad Larsen is a life coach and corporate consultant from Northern Utah. He can be reached at email@example.com.