Getting a Handle on Employee Stress Levels

There are all sorts of factors that can cause stress in the workplace, such as tight deadlines, a demanding workload, micromanaging bosses, a lack of challenge, fear of termination, and much more. When employees are stressed, it can be detrimental not only to their work, but to their health. Calmer, happier employees, on the other hand, will help keep your company running much more smoothly and improve your bottom line. It will also gain your company a reputation for being a good, worthwhile place to work, which will attract top talent to your organization.

So how do you get a handle on employee stress levels? What are the signs of employee stress, and how do you counteract it? Here’s what you need to know.

Signs of Stress

One of the biggest signs of stress in the workplace is a decrease in productivity. Deadlines aren’t being met, and work becomes lackluster, even sloppy. The motivation isn’t to do a good job, but simply to get the task done and move on to the next. 

You might also notice a higher rate of absenteeism within your company. Coming in every day is taking its toll, both physically and emotionally. They feel drained, to the point where if they want to keep working, they need to call out more often, in order to recover.

This may in turn lead to a high rate of employee turnover. Maybe you’re letting people go due to their decreased productivity and high rates of absenteeism. But more likely, they’re quitting at a higher rate, in order to find jobs that are less stressful.

Understanding Stress

The first step in reducing workplace stress is to be understanding. Often, management will look at their higher levels of absenteeism and think, “They’re just faking sick to get out of work!” This is wrong for several reasons. First, an excess of stress can, in fact, cause an increase in physical health issues, from headaches and colds to insomnia and depression to heart disease and more.

Second, emotional fatigue can be just as detrimental as physical illness. It’s not out of line for an employee, after a series of long hours or difficult projects, to need to take the day off to recover, even if they’re not sick, per se. They simply can’t continue operating at the same level without a break.

Finally, even if they are “faking sick to get out of work,” ask yourself this: why is your workplace somewhere that people are desperate to get out of?

Reducing Stress

Once you understand the causes and manifestations of stress in the workplace, how can you reduce them? Encouraging socialization is a good place to start. Group activities can be beneficial, allowing your employees to bond with each other. Knowing they have a support system at work, of people they care about and who genuinely care about them, is a great way to improve morale. These group activities also provide a temporary break from work, which can be helpful in recharging.

It also helps to go out of your way to show your employees’ appreciation for the work they’ve done. Working day in and day out for a faceless company can make them wonder, “What’s it all for?” Little gestures to show you appreciate them and the work they do can go a long way towards making employees happier, more motivated, and less stressed.

There are also practical ways to reduce the causes of employee stress. If employees are buckling under the strain of heavy workloads and tight deadlines, try hiring a few more people, to lighten the load. You can likewise provide more personal time and more vacation time, to give employees’ batteries a chance to recharge.

Try giving employees flexible hours and letting them work remotely as well. If they’re struggling with their work-life balance, this can be a big help—and can actually increase productivity! And contracts that offer competitive pay, good benefits, and a long term of employment, can alleviate employee fears about money and job security, which will in turn allow them to become better, more productive workers.

There are all sorts of ways to get a handle on employee stress and nip it in the bud. Most important, though, is good communication. Talk to your employees and find out how they’re doing: whether they’re stressed, what they’re stressed about, and how you can help. By tackling employee stress as a team, you can have happier, healthier workers, who are not only more productive, but who genuinely want to be there, and are excited to come in to work every day and do the job they’ve been given. When it comes to workplace culture, you can’t ask for more than that.