Stress is one of the leading epidemics in the country and no one is surprised. We all live in a world of fast-paced, insta-information, never-ending demands, and complicated relationships. The newest research shows that chronic stress can actually double our risk of having a heart attack. Stress goes hand in hand with things like financial troubles, health crisis, family drama, or big events, but the number one cause of stress is, you guessed it, work.

Workplace stress is built on a foundation of steady pressure, add in steady news stream of foreclosures, pile on a few layoffs, sprinkle in deadlines, competition, and financial woes and you’ve got a recipe for super stress.

Mental illness, including anxiety, depression and stress related conditions, is the leading cause of sickness and absence from work. According to the HSE, 45% of sick days taken were due to stress (HSE, Statistics 2016).

Clearly, managing workplace stress isn’t easy. On the other hand, mentally healthy employees are more productive, committed, and creative. If you can reduce stress, you can actually transform your employees and make your company more productive overall.

So how do you relieve stress from work and create a more positive work environment? We’ve gathered a few ideas some of the most successful companies do that work wonders for their employees.

  1. Give breaks.

    Everyone needs a breather every once in a while. Encourage your employees to take a 15-minute break every couple of hours. Let them get out, take a walk, or take a mental break. Some employers go the extra mile and provide a quiet room or “chill out zone” in the office with comfortable seating, soothing music, and free from distractions.

  2. Encourage a work-life balance.

    Give each employee the ability to unplug at the end of the day, don’t expect work conversations to carry on into the evening. Set firm business hours and be respectful of them. Nothing brings up stress like a phone call from your boss at 8 PM. One way to do this is to take an interest in your employee’s home and family life, know what they are dealing with at home and encourage those relationships. Each year, find ways to encourage employees to take their allotted vacation time each year before they reach burnout. Support one another during vacations so employees don’t feel obligated to stay in the office.

  3. Prioritize tasks.

    Make sure your employees know what is expected of them, and what is not. If one particular department has extremely high turnover, it could be a problem in prioritizing tasks. Keep expectations realistic and set clear, attainable goals to avoid leaving your employees exhausted and weary.

  4. Make your employees feel valued.

    When employees feel like they are working hard and getting no recognition, it creates more stress to work harder to get the value the crave. Recognize contributions, take an interest in your employees, find small ways to make them feel like an indispensable part of a team.

  5. Be Flexible.

    Having flexibility at work allows employees who reduce some of the pressure they feel in other areas of their life. For example, if one employee is a single parent, allow them to be more flexible with their work hours in order to leave early and pick up the kids from school. If one employee has a family member who is ill, find ways for them to work from home to alleviate stress. Rather than requiring employees to clock in and clock out on a strict timetable, give them specific deadlines. They have the flexibility to work at 2PM or 2AM, but the job still gets done.

According to the American Institute of Stress, job stress costs US businesses more than $300 billion annually. Effectively manage stress at work and enjoy increased motivation from happier employees, and a more productive workplace you can be proud of.

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