April is Stress Awareness Month — a month dedicated to educating and informing people about the dangers of stress and how to cope with stress, along with misconceptions about stress and mental health.
Job stress is a major source of stress for Americans and it continues to grow. In fact, studies have found that a majority of workers feel stress on the job and need help in learning how to manage stress. Employees faced additional emotional and physical challenges while navigating COVID-19, both at work and at home. Limeade data shows that 72% of employees are experiencing burnout — up from 42% pre-pandemic.
Stress has increased due to long hours, large workloads and job insecurity
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take a major toll on employees, especially frontline healthcare workers. A recent poll found that 6 in 10 healthcare workers say their mental health suffered from coronavirus worry. A majority, 55%, feel “burned out” going to work.
Employees are working longer hours and as a result, their health is suffering.
According to the New York Times, studies on the relationship between long work hours and health found that “people who worked longer hours were more likely to suffer injuries on the job and poor sleep at home.” Heart problems and high blood pressure were also results of overworked employees. While Americans are working longer and harder, job insecurity and rapidly changing industries have significantly impacted employee stress levels, among other long-term effects.
Employees are struggling. It’s up to leaders and managers to encourage and support a stress-free work environment. We’ve compiled a list of five ways for you to help your employees manage stress at work.
How to help employees manage workplace stress
1. Encourage employees to set boundaries
Unmanageable schedules, tight deadlines and working overtime can cause employees to feel overwhelmed. With a significant amount of employees now working from home, virtual work has caused a 24/7 work mentality that automatically eliminates boundaries. Help employees set boundaries at work. Encourage them to prioritize projects, say no to out-of-scope requests and disconnect when their work is done for the day.
2. Designate no-meeting days
Employees are faced with digital overload due to the pandemic. The Microsoft 2021 Work Trend Index reported weekly meeting time has more than doubled for Teams users globally since February 2020 and continues to climb. The findings also show that the average meeting time has increased by 10 minutes — from 35 to 45 minutes. No-meeting days are an easy, yet impactful way to give back time to employees.
3. Be mindful
Promoting mindfulness — guided relaxation, meditation, breathing methods and other practices — creates a better employee experience. Mindfulness is proven to effectively reduce stress, anxiety and depression.
4. Open lines of communication
Limeade research shows that when employees feel as though information flows freely throughout their organization, they’re 3x more likely to feel included at, connected to and valued by their organization. The research also shows that when employees feel they have received adequate information they’re nearly 3x less likely to feel burned out and nearly twice as likely to feel engaged in their work.
Connections between a company and employees not only build community, it strengthens culture. Open lines of communication create a two-way dialogue to ensure employees feel heard and supported. Ask employees how they’re really doing. Listen to their concerns and communicate upcoming company announcements or changes beforehand to remove levels of uncertainty and strengthen trust.
5. Commit to workplace safety
Employees who are concerned about returning to the office post-pandemic can develop anxiety if proper safety protocols aren’t put into place. Regardless of vaccinations, a stress in America study by the American Psychological Association found that nearly half of Americans feel uneasy about adjusting to in-person interaction post-pandemic. Companies have a responsibility to create safe working conditions for employees. Prepare to implement infection preventive measures, screening protocols — and develop new policies and procedures to ensure employees feel safe returning to work.
There’s a growing expectation for companies to not only support mental health in the workplace, but to truly invest in employees both mentally and physically. Stress Awareness Month promotes how to cope with stress — but it’s up to employers, managers and leaders to take action by facilitating open discussions around workplace stress and ultimately create an employee experience focused on whole-person well-being.