Creating a Low-Stress Workplace Is the Key to Wellness

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As an employer, you want your team members healthy, happy and full of passion for what they do. It’s the best way for them to work at their optimum level and for everyone to win. Unfortunately, for more than two-fifths of American workers, satisfaction at work is anything but a reality. (1)

Stress is hurting many American employees on the job as well as at home. And all those stressed-out workers are holding back the companies who employ them. That’s why you need a wellness program to provide your team some relief and your company a productive lift.

Stressed Out at Work

A 2016 poll from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health studied employees’ perceptions of health problems, issues and challenges in the workplace. It revealed that “a significant portion of working adults believe their current job affects their overall health.” More specifically, 43% agreed their current job has a bad impact on their stress level. And over one in four said their job has harmed their eating and sleeping habits as well.(2)

Workplace stress has been linked to cardiovascular disease, depression, burnout, workplace injury and back problems. It’s become so prevalent in this age of layoffs and long work hours that it’s been nicknamed the Black Death of the 21st century.

All of these complications in the lives of your workers have severe consequences for your business as they lead to

  • Absenteeism
  • Turnover
  • Decreased productivity
  • Increased medical, legal and insurance expenses

And those troubles, in turn, stress you out!

Many companies emphasize the role of self-care in their employees’ wellness by encouraging smart habits like exercise and healthy eating. But there’s more to true wellness than eating and moving—the work environment also plays a huge role.

When workers spend 40 or more hours a week in a highly stressful environment, much of their willpower to invest in healthy habits is already drained by the end of the day. So what steps can company leaders take to create a workplace where employees work productively—and still feel motivated to care for themselves in their personal time?

There are a number of ways to keep your team members far from freak-out mode. Your leadership has the power to reduce anxiety for your team members and inspire behavior change. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

Steps to Reduce Stress in the Workplace

1. Check Their Temperature With Surveys. Who doesn’t like the chance to speak their mind? An anonymous online quiz is the perfect way to gauge how your employees are feeling, both at work and away. Expect to hear both positives and negatives. Use the good reports to build on what you’re already doing right, and use the negatives to begin brainstorming steps to address your company’s particular stressors.

2. Think About Scale. Companies come in all different sizes. Find out what kinds of wellness approaches are working at other companies your size and see whether those programs would work well for you and your team.

3. Consider the Whole Person. As you’re thinking about ways to improve how well your employees feel at work, keep in mind that wellness encompasses the whole person—mental, physical and emotional. There are steps your company can take to improve employee wellness in all of those areas, from massage benefits and flexible schedules to financial coaching. Just a few efforts from your company’s leadership can start a culture shift for lasting behavior change.

4. Find the Right Fit. Have you ever been in a job where you just weren’t suited but tried to make it work anyway? It’s miserable and nerve-wracking. The same holds true for your team members. If they’re not the perfect fit for a position, they’re going to dread coming to work. The end result will be that they won’t stick around long, whether it’s their decision or yours. The key is to make sure you have the right person on the right bus in the right seat. It allows you both to do your best work.

5. Remember, Your Team Matters. Demonstrate a commitment to the needs of others. That’s an easy one to understand as far as your family, friends and customers go. But do you apply this principle to your own team members? Are you doing what’s best for them? Treat your team well, and they will return the favor.

6. Provide Financial Wellness. The 2017 PricewaterhouseCoopers Employee Financial Wellness Survey reported 53% of all employees are stressed about their finances, and nearly a third are distracted by personal finance issues at work. (3) Neither trend is surprising when you consider the median retirement savings for working-age families in the U.S. is just $5,000 (4), and nearly half have more credit card debt than savings! (4) Given the woeful state of Americans’ personal finances in general, it’s probable that money problems are a leading cause of stress for your team members as well. Those money worries are having a painful impact on your business.

One way to decrease money worries is by offering a financial wellness benefit. The program should teach your team members to take control of their money and make it work for them, eliminating financial stress.

7. Communicate. You know the old saying, “No news is good news”? It’s awesome if you want to build a culture of distrust and frustration. The truth is for many workers, a lack of transparent communication from their leadership is often a cause of dissatisfaction at work. Communication is the lifeblood of an organization and the grease that keeps the gears moving. Everyone feels better when they know what’s happening. Make a habit of oversharing with your team members, whether it’s good news or bad. When they know what’s going on and what’s being accomplished, they’ll feel like part of the team and trust their leaders.

8. Recognize Them. People, no matter how young or old, yearn for recognition. Telling someone they are doing a good job can instantly put a smile on their face. Look for opportunities to brag on your people. Do it in front of others, especially those they care about, and it’s three times as powerful. A word of warning, though: Your compliment has to be sincere. Cheap flattery will get you nowhere. In fact, it demotivates instead of inspires.
Making your company an awesome place to work, where stress is low and motivation is high, creates an atmosphere of winning for your team and the business. Then you can kiss that plague of stress goodbye.

Less Stress, Happier Workers and Higher Profits

The fallout of a stressful workplace is immeasurable. It messes with employees’ sleep patterns and family life, and can even increase your company’s sick time and health care costs. The results can include workers who are less alert, more distracted and chronically absent.

You can beat stress in your workplace and help employees feel relaxed and at home even on the job. Listen to what they’re going through, find out what’s worked well for others, and pay close attention to the whole person. As stress falls, you’ll see productivity rise.

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