If your employees were dealing with job-related stress, would you be able to recognize the signs? Would you choose to address it or do nothing at all? Employees are trying to deal with heavier workloads and increased responsibility in the workplace (aka “doing more with less”), which is leading to excessive stress and, in return, lower productivity.1 Where some employers shy away from addressing the issue head on, you and your management team might consider intervention as an option. This first post in a two-part series will offer ways you can take charge of employee job stress in your workplace.
Spot the signs
Identifying trouble is the first step in finding a solution. Job stress comes in different forms and can affect individuals mentally and physically. Signs of stress may include:2
- Anxiousness, irritability or depression
- Apathy, loss of interest at work
- Problems concentrating
Albert Ray, M.D., a physician director with Kaiser Permanente, says high stress also can lead to depression, anxiety, compulsive behaviors and substance abuse. Other problems might include fatigue, insomnia, stomach disorders, hypertension and high blood pressure.3
The effects of stress can escalate to a higher, more physical or mental level and can eventually lead to a leave of absence (LOA) or disability leave, if not properly addressed.
Once you recognize there is a stress problem, it’s important to tread carefully with your approach. Employees don’t want to feel pushed when it comes to sharing a health-related issue, so it is important for managers to communicate and offer support in nonthreatening ways. Ways to do this might include:4
- Communicate expectations and assignments clearly
- Connect employees with resources that will inform them about techniques that manage stress
- Practice effective time and project management
- Help build a positive work atmosphere and corporate culture
- Support healthy, stress-reducing behavior
Managers can find a variety of positive ways to communicate with employees without overstepping the line. And managers may even create a comfort zone that might prompt employees to talk more openly about stress-related issues with them in the future.
Now that you’ve identified the problem and opened the doors of communication for your employees, introducing fresh, new ways to reduce stress (think comfortable workstations or creative break times) can be another positive step toward a healthier, happier work environment. Stay tuned for my next post, which will dig deeper into some of these creative solutions.
1,2 Tips to Reduce and Manage Job and Workplace Stress, April 1, 2012. Available at: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/work_stress_management.htm. Accessed June 27, 2012.
3 Are Your Employees Stressed Out? Help Them! March 2, 2012. Available at: http://hr.blr.com/whitepapers/Benefits-Leave/Employee-Wellness/Are-Your-Employees-Stressed-Out-Help-Them/. Accessed April 2, 2012.
4 Coping with Stress in the Workplace. 2011. A stress management resource from Business.com available at: http://www.business.com/guides/coping-with-stress-in-the-workplace-1384/. Accessed June 27, 2012.