9 tips for managing workplace stress for everyone

Executives, managers and workers can all reduce stress

Everyone experiences anxiety now and again. I’m no exception. Sometimes I feel torn between the excitement of growing a business and what can feel like overwhelming responsibilities.

Do you feel bombarded with an overflowing inbox, excessive workload, and ever-looming deadlines? If so, you’re not alone. A full 83 percent of U.S. employees suffer from work-related stress (Source: the American Institute of Stress). When you combine work worries with busy family schedules, caretaking responsibilities and concerns about inflation, health and safety, it adds up to unprecedented rates of mental health issues among American workers.

In a sign of the times, a panel of doctors just recommended that all adults under 65 be screened by their primary care physicians for anxiety.

Can businesses thrive with stress and anxiety running through the workplace? It is true that a little bit of stress can keep individuals energized and driven to meet deadlines. But constant or excessive stress is like a ticking time bomb.

The impacts of stress

Just think about stress for a moment. When you are in its clutches, how difficult is it to think straight, to be upbeat, to give your best to family, friends and coworkers?

Stress makes people nearly three times as likely to leave their jobs, impairs strategic thinking, dulls creativity, hurts productivity and leads to absences reports the Harvard Business Review.  Then there are the physical and mental health consequences: increased risk of cardiovascular disease, anxiety disorders and depression.

Is there a way for employers and managers to reduce workplace stress while maintaining employee engagement and productivity? Is there anything individual employees can do to manage the stress they feel at the job?  The answer is yes.

Nine ways to overcome workplace stress
Executives and business owners . . .

  1. Build your staff for redundancy. Could Jalen Hurts have led the Eagles to a 6-0 season start without a strong offensive line and talented receivers? No way. Having a strong bench is vital to a successful team. That means training team members to play multiple roles. It also means building cross-departmental collaboration. At NEMR we work on this every week, so everyone understands their impact within the company and for our clients. It’s all about shared responsibility and a sense of purpose.
  2. Practice being more empathetic. It starts with seeing your employees as humans with real life struggles and joys. Do you have an open door, listening to both what is said and unsaid? Set the right tone. With empathy as a foundation for your culture, employees can be transparent about their stress levels. Then you can address them before your talent walks out the door.
  3. Be a role model. Remember that your behavior sets the bar for everyone else. When you take vacation, attend your kids’ activities, enjoy holidays—and talk about these at work—you effectively communicate how much you value personal time. Also consider company policies. At NEMR employees are rewarded with PTO for every hour they volunteer. We also have an every-other-Friday off schedule to give team members time to recharge and take care of personal matters.

Managers . . .

  1. Communicate openly. Workers report that unclear expectations are one of the most stressful aspects of work. So, let your people know exactly what needs to be done and provide deadlines. Touch base to see what help they may need. A daily check-in can work wonders. One study found that employees were three times more likely to be engaged with their work when their managers communicated with them daily.
  2. Set realistic expectations. A colleague recalls the day her manager literally stood over her shoulder waiting for her to finish a presentation. “I need this and that in the next hour,” he told her. “Seriously? I can’t work on two things at once. Which do you want?” His answer: “Both.” This is a true story. The moral: asking a team member to do the impossible is just bad management. Before promising deliverables, know your team’s capacity. If you are meeting with employees regularly, this should be a snap.
  3. Lean into relaxation. Many executives and managers think that high pressure leads to high performance. Yet, a go-go-go environment can be exhausting and have just the opposite effect. Faced with too much pressure, employees go into survival mode. There’s much to be said for easing up on the constant pressure.

Individual workers . . .

  1. Avoid distractions. Did you know that today’s worker is interrupted seven times an hour? You can control your time to a certain extent. For example, check emails and texts a few times an hour instead of as they arrive. Schedule focus time on your calendar, so others know not to interrupt you. You can also work with your teammates to cover each other’s calls for a period of time allowing you to complete a critical project or meet a deadline
  2. Schedule breaks during the day. Like the muscles in your body, your brain performs best when periods of stress are followed by relaxation. Ninety to 120 minutes is a realistic time for the brain to focus before it needs a rest. Take a short walk, run an errand, get up and stretch, do a breathing exercise. Some type of activity that disengages the brain can restore balance.
  3. Take back your power Does your manager text you at 6 am or call you after work hours regularly? Help them understand how this impacts you emotionally and physically. Knowing that you can be called on at any time of day or night can produce a constant state of worry that interferes with your productivity. Discuss realistic boundaries with him or her.

In many companies, you can feel the stress and unhappiness the moment you walk in the door. The opposite is also true. A stress-filled environment is detrimental to your employees’ health and your business’ bottom line. If yours needs to change, Email us or chat with us here.