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How can employers help to reduce stress in the workplace?

Whether  it is living through a pandemic, a war, political discord or all of the above, it's no surprise that employees are feeling more stressed than ever. And it's clear that employee stress directly impacts employers. According to an American Psychological Association (APA) survey conducted in July and August 2021, nearly 3 in 5 employees (59%) have experienced negative impacts of work-related stress in the past month, including a lack of interest, motivation or energy; difficulty focusing; and a lack of effort at work.

Because employee retention is necessary for business success, employers cannot afford to ignore the mental health of their employees. The APA survey also found that employees who typically feel tense or stressed out during the workday are more than three times as likely to say they intend to seek employment elsewhere in the next year than employees who aren't feeling stressed at work (71% vs. 20%).

The following are suggested actions employers can take to help reduce employee stress at work.

Offer flexible hours. Employees who have some control over their work hours tend to be more satisfied than those with stricter work-hour rules. Whether it is to avoid traffic, to get in an early morning workout or to allow time to walk the dogs before sunset, flexible work hours are appreciated by most employees.

Allow telecommuting. If the job is such that it can be done remotely, allow employees to work from home, or implement a hybrid approach that only requires employees to report in the office two or three days per week. Reducing commute time and freeing up time for employees to tend to personal obligations can be a significant stress reliever.

Support the use of paid time off. Taking time away from work to recharge is important. But many employees feel that their employer frowns upon the use of leave and may even penalize an employee who takes time off. Management should send a clear message that the use of paid time off is encouraged and set an example from the top.

Encourage employees to take care of their health. Make it easy for employees to obtain health services by offering telehealth options, onsite medical care, wellness clinics, etc. Activities like a healthy cooking demonstration not only can provide employees with a beneficial takeaway but also can be a needed break during the workday to unwind.

Provide resources and support. Offer educational resources on strategies employees can use to reduce their own stress such as daily exercise, maintaining social contacts and practicing good sleep habits. Employers can promote wellness webinars (often provided by insurance carriers), encourage the use of the employee assistance program, and display workplace postings or distribute handouts on maintaining mental well-being.

Ask employees what they need. Every workplace is different with different stressors. Asking your employees what they need via surveys or focus groups is much more efficient than trying to guess. Sometimes workplace stress is exacerbated by red tape, conflicts with co-workers or feeling underappreciated by management. Identifying the causes of stress in your workplace and taking actions to improve the circumstances can have a great impact on employee well-being. 


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