Career Woman

4 top reasons for work stress and what to do about them


According to a recent study, approximately 40% of employees experience persistent stress or excessive anxiety on a daily basis in the workplace. That’s a huge proportion, and anybody can see that work stress is damaging to your team – and also your bottom line.

Employees who suffer from high stress levels often demonstrate lower engagement, less productivity, and higher absenteeism levels. Stress can also be harmful to your health. Increased levels of job stress, for instance, have been demonstrated to be associated with increased rates of heart attack, hypertension and other disorders. That’s because stress affects people’s intellectual, emotional, and interpersonal functioning. Even the United Nations’ International Labor Organization has defined occupational stress as a “global epidemic.”

The question is: why are so many employees stressed?

And more importantly, what can be done about it?

There are many contributing factors to stress, but four of the most popular ones are listed below, along with ways you can start combating each stressor to help your employees experience a better work/life balance which can lead to overall happiness.

* Long hours, long commutes, and long meetings

These days, it seems like more and more time is being spent driving to work, sitting at a desk, or sitting in a meeting, and it’s starting to take a toll on employees. This might be why many companies are starting to incorporate ‘flexible scheduling’. For instance, remote work is on the rise and will most likely continue to grow with every passing year. Employees enjoy the flexibility of being able to work from their home office one or two days a week, as it cuts down on long commutes and gives them autonomy over their schedules. It also makes for a better work/life balance. Webinar software and platforms such as Google Hangouts also makes face-to-face meetings unnecessary these days, which further lends itself to remote work.

What to do about it:

Consider allowing your employees the opportunity to work from home every now and then, and you may see incredible benefits such as better work output and more positive moods. Additionally, consider changing employee schedules where possible so that people aren’t commuting during rush-hour traffic. Finally, as far as long meetings are concerned, always set a timer for your meetings and have a pre-written agenda in place. This ensures that no one’s time is wasted and allows employees to get back to the work that’s waiting for them.

* Lack of non-monetary rewards and recognition at work

Do you regularly thank your team members for a job well done? Everyone likes to feel appreciated and everyone likes to know that they’re a valued member of a larger whole. It’s a validating experience to be shown appreciation. Believe it or not, a great many employees often feel immense job dissatisfaction simply because their efforts and actions are not recognized by management. We all want to feel as if the work we do has purpose, and in the absence of recognition, a sense of purpose dwindles.

What to do about it:

Whether it’s a small note, a gift card, or simply a word of acknowledgement in your next team meeting, be sure to recognize your employees for excellent work. It’ll boost their confidence and create a desire in them to continue going the extra mile. Also consider regularly reviewing the missions and values of your business or organisation. Remind your employees of the purpose they each serve and why they are a necessary part of the greater whole.

* Negative relationships between coworkers

According to a recent study, 67% of workers reported that having friends at work makes their job more fun and enjoyable. Human beings are social beings, which means that we crave healthy, empowering relationships the way we crave air, food, and water. Relationships are essential to our well-being. In fact, many studies have been conducted showing that people with a larger support network often outlive those without it by 22%! And yet too often, negative relationships end up developing between coworkers, which understandably leads to consistent stress.

What to do about it:

Devote at least 20-30 minutes a day toward relationship building. This can look like a variety of things. Visit a colleague’s office during lunch, reply to people’s postings on LinkedIn, or ask a colleague out for a quick cup of coffee. Encourage your employees to do the same. These little interactions help build the foundation of positive and fruitful relationships.

* Unpleasant working environment

According to Cultural Anthropologist Mahadve Apte, laughter can help individuals to bond with one another. That said, having a laugh once in a while will help to build a strong team as well as reduce conflicts by lowering tension within the group.Tension is bound to surface every now and then, of course, but it shouldn’t stand in the way of productivity. When it does, it can make for a working environment that’s thick with anxiety, low morale, and distrust among employees.

What to do about it:

One good way to incorporate fun into the workplace is by holding team building activities. These activities can help your employees get to know each other better, and can also help to break up routine. Better still, engage a facilitator who can design activities that are fun but have a work-related learning outcome.Celebrating people’s birthdays and other special occasions is also great way to have a bit of fun and let people know they are appreciated.  Having “casual clothes” Fridays creates a more informal setting in which your employees can get to know each other as well.

Stress is a common factor in the workplace—but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are things employers can start doing immediately to improve the quality of life that their employees experience. When that quality of life improves, so do other things: productivity, engagement, teamwork, and positivity…just to name a few. The end result is a stronger company and employees who are happier and healthier for the long run.

About Rosalind Cardinal

Rosalind Cardinal, known as ‘The Leadership Alchemist', is the Principal Consultant of Shaping Change, a consulting practice in the field of Organisational Development and Human Resources. She has coached clients at Executive and Senior Levels in government agencies, private enterprises, and the community sector and is a sought-after speaker and expert at conferences and events. Visit Shaping Change to learn new strategies and game-changing ideas toward becoming a better leader and to download Ros’ free e-book on leadership.

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