Stress is the body’s reaction to challenges and changes. Living in a fast-changing world makes us vulnerable to many different stressors. Our work-life makes up most of our lives; so it would not be surprising to think that most of the stressors we encounter are work-based stressors. Stress occurs owing to many different factors in the workplace and that doesn’t mean that it is inevitable. It can be avoided and dealt with in case it occurs. In this case, the biggest role falls upon the employers and managers. As employers, you should be the one to think about preventing workplace stress and think about solutions if your employees suffer from it. This might sound like a tedious responsibility; however, if you know which steps to take at which points, there is nothing tedious about it.
What Causes Stress in the Workplace?
Working for Long Hours
One of the main factors that affect employees in the workplace is working hours that exceed their potential. As an employer, having unrealistic expectations about employee performance is neither good for you nor your employees. Working for longer hours does not only affect the employee’s performance and productivity but also acts as a strong stressor. Unrealistically long working hours will exhaust them and in a short term, they will be willing to run away from their tasks. Employees need time for themselves and they need time away from work to rest both their minds and bodies.
Lack of Communication and Transparency
Coming across uncertainties in the workplace is a displeasing experience for many employees. When people start working in a place, one of their biggest expectations is corporate transparency. They want to know what they are working on, what is expected of them, what is the vision of the company they work in. Lack of transparency usually stems from lack of internal communication which has to be strengthened by employers. People who work under the same roof should have strong communication and they should not be left in the dark with uncertainties.
Expectations that don’t meet your employees’ potential will eventually lead to over-exhausted and stressed employees. According to World Health Organization, workplace stress occurs most commonly in situations when employees are asked to do things that are beyond their knowledge and abilities. Research by HSE shows that workload is one of the biggest causes of workplace stress with a rate of 44%. When the employees are left with an excessive workload, they will put their tasks in order and they will rush to complete them all in time; which will most likely not be possible. In order to complete their tasks, they will do overtime or they will not complete the tasks efficiently; hence, they will not be satisfied with what they have done. Employee satisfaction will in turn increase employee engagement and retention rates.
Lack of Recognition and Appreciation
In an organization, each position matters, and each task that is carried out successfully needs to be recognized and appreciated. If an employee does not get credit and appreciation for their efforts, they will start regarding their existence in the organization as worthless and their self-confidence will diminish over time. Lack of self-confidence will eventually act as a massive stressor in your workplace.
Lack of Autonomy
Even though each individual in an organization has a specific role, they might need to customize their working order and environment. As an employer, you should make sure that your employees have a personal space in which they can use their own decision-making mechanisms. People know themselves the best; they know how they can work better. You should respect that and let your employees shape and guide their own working methods. Otherwise, they might feel restricted and under the feeling of unfreedom, it is really difficult for one to stay stress-free.
Supervision is a mandatory part of all working mechanisms. However, when you are supervising your employees, you should keep within bounds. Your employees should not feel over-controlled and completely oriented by their supervisors. If you fail to do that, your employees will feel under pressure and that will put a huge burden on their shoulders. Inevitably, you will have stressed your employees out.
Effects of Uncontrolled Workplace Stress
Stress in the workplace might be persistent if the stressors are persistent as well. If the stressors in the workplace cannot be controlled, there will be various ongoing effects. A stressful work environment will result in different reactions in employees. There are several common reactions to stress such as behavioral, physical, and psychological reactions. Behavioral reactions could be in form of avoidant behavior in which the employee would be willing to escape from the factor that stresses them. Physical reactions to stress may include headaches, excessive sweating, increased heart rate, and in the long term these might affect the body seriously. Psychological reactions to stressful situations might include panic, anxiety, or depressed moods. These reactions should be taken seriously regarding that these could result in serious health issues in the employees. From the employee perspective, an organization that doesn’t care for its employees’ health issues is unlikely to retain its employees. In an organization with stressed employees, productivity and employee engagement will inevitably decrease.
Stress affects our lives in ways that we usually don’t expect. Therefore, it is important to minimize it as possible. Its sources should be spotted and cleared away to manage it successfully. Despite the common belief that stress is a subjective experience that cannot be measured, its levels are measurable. You can consider online test-making options to see the levels of stress in your workplace and how severe it affects the employees’ lives. After measuring the levels of stress and seeing the effects of stress on your employees, you can continue with these steps:
Identify the Stressors
Working on stress management in your workplace should begin with identifying the main stressors. You should learn what stresses your employees and then work on annihilating these factors. To understand your employees’ perspectives better, you could conduct tests and surveys to see what they feel and think. Employee satisfaction and employee engagement surveys could help you make a good start in understanding your employees. You can use an online test maker software to easily create occasional employee engagement or satisfaction surveys and tests with the questions you will prepare. Remember that the best way of understanding your employees is to communicate with them. You cannot understand what bothers them without listening to them.
Work on the Outcomes and Provide
After learning the sources of stress in your workplace, you should be thinking about how to make that sources ineffective. There are many possible scenarios. Your working hours might be stressful, your workplace environment may not be as soothing, even your attitude towards your employees might be the stressor. In a survey conducted by Korn Ferry, 35% of respondents said their main source of stress at work was their boss. At this point, when you have learned about the stressors in your workplace, you have to provide whatever it is that your employees need. You can create a safe and healthy environment for them to connect with each other, you can re-arrange their working conditions in regard to their needs.
Make It Continuous
After the removal of stressors in your workplace, you will see a set of positive changes both in the environment and your employees’ physical and mental health. If you want these changes to be permanent, your actions should be persistent. Stress management is not a phase or a short-term process; it is a long-term process that should not take a pause. Here are some long-term actions you can take to provide a healthy stress management process in your workplace:
- Build strong relationships. Communicate with your employees. Learn about their needs and try to provide them with what they need for stress relief in the workplace.
- Provide your employees with a personal space in which they can stay away from work in their breaks.
- Promote social activity. Help your employees build social relationships with various social activities. Let them participate in group projects or activities and cooperate with each other. Research from the Association for Psychological Science suggests that helping others, cooperation helps cope with daily stressors and supports well-being.
- Allow flexibility. Let your employees work in the way they think would work best for them. Value their opinions and trust them. They know how they could work better.
- Help your employees build the work-life balance they need to work efficiently and stress-free. According to a survey, 20% of employees surveyed regard imbalance between personal life and work-life as the main source of stress.