Don’t Let Workplace Stress Wreak Havoc on Your Organization

Posted on May 3, 2012 by author in Best Practices, Culture

Have you ever heard the expression, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”? I witnessed this idiomatic expression come out of a manager’s mouth just the other day when consulting with him about an employee who was expressing high levels of stress due to workload and deadlines. Of course the expression made me cringe and I asked the manager to consider a more proactive approach to managing workplace stress instead of his current laissez faire approach. I advised that workplace stress and burn out leads to increased absenteeism, low employee morale, decrease in productivity, workplace safety issues and ultimately the potential loss of key employees.

According to Harris, Rothenberg International, Inc a provider of employee assistance program services, workplace stress has hit a three-year high and counselors have noticed an increase in behaviors being reported recently in the workplace such as suicidal comments, violence and hallucinations. There are many factors that contribute to workplace stress such as a mismatch between the requirements of the job and limited resources, design of tasks, workload, management style, difficult environmental and working conditions, etc. The hazards of workplace stress can wreak havoc on the health of an organization but it doesn’t have too.

The following are some best practices both small and large organizations can incorporate to manage and reduce workplace stress:

  • Open door policy – inviting employees to have a say about their work environment in an honest and open fashion can change the workplace culture and reduce stress. Improve communications by allowing your employees the opportunity to participate in decisions and actions affecting their jobs and opportunity for social interaction and collaboration among staff members.
  • Flexible work arrangements – allow for compatibility with demands and responsibilities outside the job and support better work/life balance for employees.
  • Encourage breaks – where not required by law, employers should encourage short breaks, which can rejuvenate the body and brain resulting in higher quality of work. Encouraging short-breaks will also make employees feel that their boss cares about their health and safety.
  • Regular risk assessments – identify and eliminate harmful and unpleasant working conditions. Regular assessments can prevent work-related injury and disease, and designing an environment that promotes well-being for everyone at work.
  • Wellness programs – designed to improve employee health, reduce health care expenses, enhance productivity, decrease stress and boost morale. Effective wellness programs come in all shapes and sizes and consist of smoking cessation programs, flu shots, health screenings, fitness training, nutrition counseling and even simple initiatives like adding fresh fruits and vegetables in the lunch room.
  • Employee Assistance EAP – generally include short-term counseling and referral services for employees and their household members. EAP’s are intended to help employees deal with personal problems that might adversely impact their work performance, health, and well-being.

The effect of an organization implementing one or more of the above practices can positively impact ROI as a result of lower medical costs, reduced turnover and absenteeism, and higher employee productivity.  Good news right?! Ask yourself this question…why should you ask an employee to take care of a customer if you are not asking them to take care of their own health?