Workforce Health + Benefits

Strategies for Managing Stress in the Workplace

From jam-packed days of meetings and looming deadlines to unceasing emails and an often unrealistic workload, employees tend to work around the clock, into the weekend, and wake up on Monday morning to start the cycle all over again.

Of course, some love the hustle. Others simply love what they do. But either way you look at it, employees contend with a lot of stress. It doesn’t matter how good they are at their job or how much they love the chaos – unmanaged and prolonged periods of stress can lead to burnout, negativity and unproductive employees.

What are the financial and health impacts of stress in the workplace?

  • Regardless of job title, responsibilities or industry, 80% of workers feel stress on the job.3
  • Studies conducted by the CDC’s National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health have reported that upwards of 40 percent of American professionals are “extremely stressed at work.”2
  • Additionally, according to the American Psychological Association, more than a third of American professionals deal with chronic work stress.
  • Stress in the workplace is costing businesses and organizations billions of dollars a year in medical bills and lost work hours.1

Of course, it’s more than financial consequences. The effects of job stress on physical and mental health can prove to be the real crux in organizations today. Take a look:

Effects of Job Stress on Physical Health

Uncontrolled tension, worry and anxiety at work can wreak havoc on an employee’s quality of life and overall health—welcoming stress-induced colds and flus and even more severe conditions like heart disease and metabolic syndrome.

Long-term (chronic) job-related stress causes physical changes in the body, like: 

  • Chest pain and increased heart rate 
  • Heightened breathing
  • Muscle tension, aches and pains 
  • Low energy
  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach and repetitive digestive issues
  • Insomnia
  • Frequent colds and infections
  • Nervousness and shaking
  • Dry mouth 
  • Clenched jaw 
  • Obesity

Effects of Job Stress on Mental Health

While more research needs to be done, current studies are suggesting there is a biochemical link between stress and mental illness. Long-term (chronic) job-related stress can negatively impact an employee emotionally, cognitively and behaviorally, with mental changes like: 

  • Becoming easily agitated and frustrated
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Constant worrying and racing thoughts
  • Procrastinating and avoiding responsibilities
  • Having difficulty relaxing and quieting the mind
  • Developing low self-esteem
  • Avoiding others
  • Forgetfulness and disorganization
  • Inability to focus
  • Poor judgment
  • Being pessimistic
  • Developing depression and anxiety 
  • Increased use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes

Effects of Stress on Employee Performance

Employee stress is a consistent challenge for organizations, as stress contributes to:

  • Decreased organizational performance
  • Decreased employee overall performance
  • High error rate 
  • Poor quality of work
  • High staff turnover
  • Absenteeism

How to Help Your Employees Reduce Stress & Increase Total Well-Being

In just six weeks, your workforce can experience reduced stress levels and have the tools needed to control future feelings of stress.

Through Stress Free Now - an online, six-week program by Cleveland Clinic | Bravo that teaches clinically proven relaxation techniques to help employees reduce and control their feelings of stress - your employees can reduce perceived stress and increase their levels of mindfulness, psychological well-being, vitality and quality of life.

Learn more about Stress Free Now and let’s talk about how we can help you build a stronger, healthier, stress-free culture:

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Need actionable steps to take right now as you learn more about our Stress Free Now program? Find five strategies for managing stress in the workplace below that complement this program.

But, Wait. Where Is All This Stress Coming from in the First Place?

Without question, some jobs are more stressful than others. But, by and large, stress is very personal. A certain job, task or encounter may be more stressful for one person than another. Because every employee deals with or expresses stress in different ways, it is difficult to pinpoint and address the root cause.

While some stress in the workplace is inevitable, employees should not feel constantly overwhelmed by it. Stress can and must be managed in your organization to ensure a positive, thriving culture and meaningful employee engagement. When culture and engagement are healthy, a multitude of other pieces of the successful organization’s puzzle fall into place.

How does your organization work to manage and reduce the stress of its employees?

How Can Employers Reduce Stress in the Workplace?

Above all, when a company goes above and beyond to help their employees reduce their stress, employees are more likely to feel good about their quality of life and well-being.

When it comes to the origin of stress in the workplace, how severe stress is for employees depends on:

  • The demands that are placed on them 
  • How much control employees have in dealing with those demands

When employees feel there is a lot demanded of them and cannot control their work-life balance and capacity, stress levels increase drastically.4

As an employer or HR professional, you hold significant power to transform your culture by supporting the mental health of your workforce and taking tangible steps to prioritize stress reduction.

5 Strategies for Managing Stress in the Workplace

1. Start With Your Organization’s Leadership Structure

Workloads aside, stress in the workplace trickles down from decisions at the top.

As part of your organization’s leadership, you must continuously work to monitor employee stress levels and address any harmful emotional states.

Your leadership and managerial teams can control stress in the workplace by:

  • Leading by example in every aspect of the business. This includes managing your own stress in a healthy way.
  • Regularly communicating in a transparent manner to all employees about job performance, job responsibilities, company health, company goals and reiterating the company vision.

When employees feel reassured, know how their efforts fit into the big picture, have a sense of control over their work duties, and understand how the company is doing and what the short- and long-term goals are, work takes on a higher meaning and stress levels are reduced.

  • Expressing gratitude for your workforce in a very genuine manner on a consistent basis. It’s important this effort is not forced, or it will come off as inauthentic. Your employees are what make your business tick, so be sure they know how irreplaceable they are by praising deserving individuals and recognizing specific contributions and accomplishments.
  • Showing your employees how to decompress and turn off work. Don’t email employees on off hours, don’t request deadlines that require employees to work in the evenings or on weekends, discuss how you spend down time to show employees what a healthy work-life balance looks like, and so on.

2. Implement a System of Checks and Balances When Delegating Work and Assigning Tasks

Did you know that the average professional has 30 to 100 tasks on their to-do list?5  While it is probably never anyone’s intention to fill employees’ plates until they’re overflowing, that’s what is happening in most organizations.

You know your company best. How are teams structured? How are managers assigned to employee groups? And how are tasks and new clients delegated?

Consider amending how your organization and/or managers divvy up work among employees.

  • There could be a rotational shift where employees alternate high- and low-stress
  • You can involve employees in the decision-making process on how tasks are assigned, how they’re performed, and when deadlines are set.
  • Mangers can start providing more resources, supplies and time needed to perform certain tasks, giving employees a jump-start on projects and assignments.

3. Offer a Flexible Work Environment

An inexpensive and wildly successful option to help employees reduce stress in the workplace is to offer flextime. Today’s workforce has certainly evolved from the very standard and restrictive 9-to-5. Most professionals today thrive on flexibility and the power to get work done when and where they feel most creative and productive.

Your workforce is probably chock-full of morning mavens and night owls. Your workforce probably also has a good mix of young professionals, parents, and tenured businessmen and women.

Bottom line, everyone flourishes on their own schedule, and flextime will strip the one-size-fits-all business demands and give everyone the freedom to choose their work hours and improve their work-life balance.

Your flextime plan can even include a “no-work time period,” when employees don’t have to feel obligated to answer calls or emails.

Additionally, since flextime is highly sought after by many professionals, your organization will benefit from a boost in attracting and retaining top talent.

4. Establish Different Work Spaces in the Office

In conjunction with flextime, transforming the office to include spaces where employees can go to work or relax – when they need a break from their desk – can aid in reducing stress in the workplace.

  • For individuals who need an extra quiet place to think or meditate, consider developing a quiet space in your office.
  • For individuals who need a fun, upbeat space to get their creative juices flowing, consider creating a creative lounge or patio.
  • For individuals who just need to take a few minutes to unplug and perhaps catch up with a colleague, consider creating a comfortable relaxation space.

These different spaces not only encourage occasional, advantageous breaks – which are necessary to reduce stress – but they can also boost productivity and help employees sustain a more positive mental state.

5. Introduce an Employee Wellness Program

The heart of every stress management technique you and your company utilize must be rooted in employee self-care.

When stress presents itself, it doesn’t just affect an employee’s work and productivity, it affects their entire being. They take it home with them, it mixes with personal issues, and they bring an increasingly larger load of stress back to work every day. Unmanaged stress can be a vicious cycle.

That’s why, to help employees manage stress in the workplace – and subsequently maintain a healthy well-being and good quality of life – the best approach is holistic.

Through an employee wellness program, your employees can address their diet, exercise habits, mental health, personal relationships, finances, and more.

A wellness program that is personalized to meet the unique needs of your workforce can provide training and continuing education opportunities, make programs or tools available to help your employees relieve stress, and even encourage support for each other in a team atmosphere.

Indeed, an employee wellness program is all about creating positive behavior change on a personal and professional level – key to reducing stress.

Get Stress Under Control in Your Workplace and Reap the Benefits of a Healthier, More Productive Workforce

The importance of addressing total well-being, including stress management and how to deal with stress in the workplace, cannot be overstated. 

Through the Cleveland Clinic Stress Free Now program your employees will acquire the skills and tools needed to understand how to deal with stress in the workplace, reduce their own stress levels and defuse future onsets of stress.

In addition to helping your employees reduce and control their feelings of stress, Stress Free Now will help your employees increase their levels of mindfulness, psychological well-being, and quality of life.

Help your workforce reach their potential by helping them pivot toward a personal and professional future that has considerable less stress in it. Learn more about Stress Free Now

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1American Psychological Association. APA Survey Finds US Employers Unresponsive to Employee Needs. Accessed November 5, 2018.

2CDC U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Stress at Work. Accessed November 5, 2018. Attitudes in the American Workplace VII, The Seventh Annual Labor Day Survey. Accessed November 5, 2018.

4The American Institute of Stress. Workplace Stress. Accessed November 5, 2018.

5Goudreau, Jenna. Forbes.12 Ways To Eliminate Stress At Work. Accessed November 5, 2018.

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