Solutions for Stress in the Workplace
Issue: February 2013 by Dr. Colleen McLaughlin, SPHR, Associate Professor of Business, Liberty University in Human Resources, Inside The Magazine
Are your employees performing to their potential? Do they come to work cheerful, energized and ready to contribute, add value and stay for the long haul? Or, have you noticed an increase in illnesses, absenteeism, conflict and poor attitudes among your employees? What might be causing this negative impact on your organization? For many work places, stress is the likely culprit.
Stress in the Workplace
Stress in the workplace today is caused by many issues, including financial concerns, job insecurity, fear of the unknown, unstable work relationships and more. As employees continue to experience stress in their lives, their performance, job satisfaction and health can be dramatically impacted. Additionally, employees may increase choices that have a negative impact on their lives, such as overeating, excessively consuming alcohol or smoking. Enlarged job responsibilities may also intensify stress and workplace fatigue. The result may be an escalation in safety concerns, accidents and increased workers’ compensation claims.
Of additional interest is the concept of emotional contagion. Emotional contagion, a non-conscious process of catching and mimicking another’s emotions, occurs frequently in organizations. Consequently, when there are employees who are manifesting stress through their behavior it can be replicated by those working around them. Agreeing your organization’s desire to have high performing employees who desire to remain in your organizations, it is important to discuss potential solutions to remedy the negative impact of stress in the workplace.
Solution #1: Transparency
One solution that is cost-effective and can make a positive impact on employees who are experiencing stress is that of organizational transparency and effective communication. Successful organizations are finding that when they are transparent with their employees regarding the organization’s goals, strategic plans and even difficulties or problems, the negative impact of fear of the unknown is more likely to subside.
Fear of the unknown can be gripping to an employee. For instance, when an organization is experiencing change as a result of economic challenges, such as downsizing or restructuring, the employee may begin to be concerned about the future. Is the company going to be sustainable for the long-term? Do they see a future with the organization?
Perception is simply the process of receiving information about and making sense of the world around us and can be a powerful force impacting employee behavior. When employees perceive there are changes in the organization that may negatively impact their job or well-being, it can have a dramatic impact on their stress level.
Perceiving the organization does not care about the employees can induce stress. Employees who perceive a lack of care and concern as a result of a lack of communication and transparency have been found to not only experience stress but tend to have issues with absenteeism. Employees desire to understand what is occurring in the organization as well as how the leadership intends to address the issues. Therefore, becoming a transparent organization may ward off unnecessary stress for your employees while improving performance and commitment to the organization.
Solution #2: Personal Financial Management
A second issue contributing to the stress levels of employees is that of personal financial management. The average employee is likely struggling with debt that far exceeds previous generations. Today, your employees are not only concerned about their job security in and of itself, but also how to make each of their current paychecks stretch as far as possible. Increasing their standard of living is less of a focus compared to simply meet basic living expenses for many employees.
How are organizations aiding their workers in alleviating the additional negative impact of this looming issue? It is important not to assume that your employees understand or have the skills to effectively manage their financial well-being. Many organizations have found that providing personal financial planning resources to their employees has a tremendous benefit by offering information that allows them to begin regaining control over their personal finances. This can be done utilizing consulting services, onsite training and providing access to financial planning materials for employees.
As employees make strides toward living debt-free or, at the very least, improved management of their financial resources, the organization is more likely to experience the benefits of less-stressed workers. In other words, decreased stress levels of employees transfers directly to his or her improved performance in the workplace.
Solution #3: Wellness Programs & EAPs
Realizing there are negative impacts of stress on the physical, spiritual and mental well-being of employees is necessary. Developing and implementing a wellness program for your employees may provide an avenue for stress relief and aid in diminishing the negative impacts of stress. Employees who choose to participate in wellness programs have been found not only to have improved health, but greater workplace productivity. Wellness programs may include training on living a healthy lifestyle, smoking cessation programs, weight loss initiatives as well as various exercise opportunities.
Further, organizations participating in Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) have seen a significant impact on their employees’ productivity, improved attendance and health. EAPs, such as those found with AllPoints EAP and Organizational Services in Lynchburg, provide organizations with the support, resources and training needed to care for their employees while focusing on improving workplace productivity and performance.
“Clinical research, as well as practical experience demonstrates that people who are happy, healthy and free of excessive worries and life stressors are more apt to deliver higher levels of work performance on a consistent basis,” Jason McDaniel, Director of AllPoints, explained.
Once your company realizes the impact stress has on employees’ behavior and the direct link between that stress and your organization’s bottom line, implementing these solutions seems much more practical. Not only will you be improving the sustainability and competitive advantage of your organization, you will be doing your part in improving the lives of your greatest asset—your employees.