Did you know April is National Stress Awareness month? Every April, we take a good hard look at the things stressing us out and try to make some changes. For individuals, this can mean finally cracking open that book (time to find out who won The Hunger Games!), eating better, or lacing up your sneakers to get to the gym.
However, these are all fixes on an individual level. What about de-stressing at an organizational level? How do you ensure your employees are less stressed in the workplace?
It’s obvious why stress at work is an important problem. Health risks incurred by stress, like an increased risk of heart disease, mean more time spent at the doctor’s than in the office. Plus stress can lead to sleep deprivation, depression, digestive problems, and workplace disengagement.
Stress is such a big problem for the working world that the House and Senate passed resolutions in 2008 recognizing the first week of April as National Workplace Wellness Week.
If April is the time to think about workplace wellness and stress reduction, then what are the fixes? After all, you can’t make an employee eat their broccoli or go to the gym. Instead, here are some company culture fixes to make your workplace a less stressful and more engaging place to work.
Focus on Work-Life Balance
Recently the American Psychological Association’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program doled out awards to four stress-free companies. These companies reported stress levels at 19 percent, compared to the national average of 35 percent.
One of the ways these companies achieved such a distinction (other than being located in Hawaii) is by focusing on the work-life balance of employees. Allowing employees to take time off when they’re feeling burnt out — or encouraging them to work from home — can make a big difference in the attitudes workers bring back into the office.
Throw Your Workers A (Dog) Bone
Could Fido be the key to unlocking worker stress? A study published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management showed bringing your furry friend into the office greatly reduces stress in employees. Having pets around can help with a whole host of health issues from stress to cholesterol. In fact, the mere act of petting an animal releases the hormone oxytocin, which reduces blood pressure and anxiety levels.
Bringing your four-legged friend into the office can certainly present its own challenges. If your office is willing to work to make pets a part of your company culture, however, you might just be rewarded by a more relaxed (and healthier!) workforce.
Mentor Young Workers
Did you know Millennial workers are among the most stressed category of employees? While national stress averages for all workers clock in at 4.9 on a 10-point scale, Millennials as a group come in at 5.4. This is likely because the tough economy has made it harder for Millennials to find a great job out of school. Therefore, Millennial employees are also more stressed about keeping the positions they finally manage to find.
Another thing Millennials crave is mentorship. Millennials want to be mentored, to learn, and to receive feedback about their work. So to hire great Millennial workers, talk up your mentorship programs in the video interview or in-person meeting. Millennials who feel they’re gaining valuable skills and professional development on the job will be less stressed about their future career.
Start a Meditation Program
Live for the present. Stop and smell the roses. We’ve all heard these sayings, but did you know they can actually lower the stress levels of your employees? Mindful meditation, focusing on the here and now and keeping your mind from wandering, can help reduce the stress hormone cortisol.
Start a meditation space in your office where employees can go during lunch or free time to unwind. Perhaps your office could also take part in yoga classes, combining mindfulness and stress-busting exercise. Whatever you do, remember meditation and physical exercise can lead to a reduction in stress, leading to employees with clear thought processes and greater creativity.
Feedback is Vital
This point is simple: Employee feedback is vital. Millennial employees aren’t the only ones who crave recognition–all workers enjoy being appreciated for a job well done. Start an employee recognition program and make sure to always note the successes of your workers. Not only will it help you reduce stress and engage your employees, it will also work to attract the top talent you want to interview with you in the office and through online video.
A stressed-out workforce is a sloppy, unhealthy, and uncreative group of people. This National Stress Awareness month, take some time to formulate a way to reduce the stress of your employees for a happier and healthier workforce.