We all know that stress has negative effects on individual health. But stressed out employees can have a huge impact on the health of your business as well.

Research shows that employee health, finance, and engagement issues are closely tied together, and all negatively affected by stress. Workers who are stressed are more likely to develop health problems and miss shifts. When they do show up, they often have trouble concentrating, making decisions, meeting deadlines, and getting along with their colleagues and coworkers.

It’s not hard to imagine how having even a few high-stress staff members can drastically affect business productivity, morale and results.

According to the Stress in America Study, individuals who are highly stressed about money are more likely to say they engage in unhealthy behaviors to manage their stress. This can add additional strain on employers in the form of increased absenteeism and presenteeism, higher risk of accidents, and spiraling healthcare and liability expenses.

And if that’s not enough to worry about, stress also plays a key role in employee turnover. A recent Monster.com poll reported that 42% of respondents have purposely changed jobs due to a stressful work environment, and 35% of respondents have thought about it.

But isn’t stress a personal problem?

To some extent, yes. Your employees may be stressed out over personal or family issues. But work is often cited as a leading cause of stress, and those personal/family issues may be exacerbated by workplace stressors.

Interestingly enough, our old friend sleep plays a role here as well. In a recent survey, two-thirds of respondents reported that not getting enough sleep was a major source of stress. And because stress can lead to lack of sleep, these two things can interact to form a vicious low-sleep, high-stress cycle of doom.

Can employers really help?

Yes! Because stress is so often work related, organizations have the power to make a significant difference in the level of stress experienced by their employees. In addition to making your workplace more sleep-friendly, you can create a less stressful atmosphere with some targeted changes. If you know where to start.

There is some fascinating research out there showing that employee and employer perceptions of workplace stressors are actually quite different.

According to the Global Benefit Attitudes Survey, 53% of workers identified low staffing levels as a major workplace stressor, but only 15% of senior managers acknowledged staffing levels were a cause of stress in their organization.

A recent study by Willis Towers Watson asked both employers and employees to rate various causes of workplace stress and the results were vastly different. For example, employees ranked low pay as the second highest workplace stressor, but employers had it at number 11. Obviously there are some stark differences of opinion.

The lesson here is don’t try to “fix” your workplace stress problems until you’ve clearly identified what they are. Not only could you waste a lot of time and energy focusing on things that aren’t of concern, you could set yourself back even further by appearing to be out of touch.

If you really want to know what’s stressing your staff out, just ask them. Once you can accurately pinpoint the issues, you’ll be able to address them accordingly.

In the meantime, here are a few things you can start doing today to help alleviate workplace stress:

Lead by example

Energy is contagious. Are you spreading anger and anxiety or encouragement and empathy? Are you burning the candle at both ends or leaving at a reasonable hour? Your employees will follow in your footsteps. Make sure you’re on the right path.

Give your team the tools to be successful

Whether it’s a new software program, a cell phone upgrade, or an ergonomic desk chair, anything that makes the job more efficient and the workload more manageable will help relieve employee stress. (Bonus: Your employees may finally be able to check off some of those elusive To Do list items!)

Evaluate staffing levels

Has production been increasing while your staff continues to shrink? Have you let people go and not replaced them? While you may view these things as evidence of a brilliant streamlining effort, it could also be that your current staff feels overworked, disengaged and on the verge of burnout. Sometimes what the team (and the business) really needs is an extra set of hands.

Appreciate your people

Thank you cards and bonuses are nice, but if your employees need to work a second job every weekend, they’re not going to be refreshed and focused come Monday morning. Hire good people and pay them what they are worth. Offer employee benefits, retirement and paid time off programs. If they’re doing a good job, let them know. And compensate them accordingly.

Employee Assistance Programs

Regardless of what’s going on at work, there will always be people on your team who are going through rough times. EAPs have been proven to help reduce stress for those who have them available and take advantage of them.

Of course you’ll never be able to completely eliminate stress from your working environment, but by taking the time to tweak a few of your processes, you just might be able to help your team accomplish more during the day and sleep better at night. And that’s a huge step in the right direction.


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