For millions of workers, it’s difficult to avoid bringing work-related stress home. The American Institute of Stress advises that work is the leading cause of adult stress, a factor that is spiraling out of control in many industries. A Harris Interactive poll indicated that 82 percent of workers experience stress on the job, and around half say they need help learning how to cope with work-related stress. From the same poll, 42 percent of these workers said job pressures were interfering with their home lives.
Americans are working harder than ever and putting in long hours. When left unchecked, stress has been linked to a number of health and social problems ranging from depression and heart attacks to substance abuse and family violence. Stress also impacts productivity levels, breaks down teamwork and contributes to high absenteeism rates. Therefore, it’s critical for employers to find ways to help employees deal with stress in healthy ways before things get out of control.
Tips for Employers to Help Reduce Work-Related Stress
How can we, as employers, help employees cope with work stress before it goes home with them at the end of each shift? Employee education and support systems can go a long way toward preventing this issue.
Provide an Employee Assistance Program
All employers can promote good health and reduced stress by providing access to an employee assistance program (EAP). Give all employees information about how to speak to a caring EAP counselor, and emphasize that this is a free and confidential service. Post notices in employee break areas that include the toll-free number and instructions on how to call for help. Let managers know how to provide this information to employees displaying signs of stress.
Conduct Weekly Stress-Level Checks
Encourage all managers to check in with employees on a regular, weekly basis to assess stress levels in employees. Have 15-minute personal meetings with employees to find out how the company is supporting employee well-being. A simple opening question can be, “How is your week going?” Educate managers on spotting stress indicators and how to bring them up in a constructive way.
Give Employees a Safe Space for Diffusing Stress
In every work area, there should be at least one “safe space” where employees can blow off some steam once in a while. This can be an unused office in the back of the building, a gaming area in the employee break room or even a private bathroom. Employees often just need a few moments to diffuse stress when it gets to them. This can help prevent things from getting out of hand or going home with them.
How to Help Family Members of Stressed Out Employees
Society has many ills, including substance abuse and violence. Stress from work is often the culprit of these, impacting not only the employee but also those around the employee. Consider that as soon as your employees leave their place of employment, if they are under a great deal of workplace stress, the chances of them lashing out on another human being are higher. There are a few things you can do to help prevent this from happening.
Extend Your EAP Benefits to the Family of Employees
Provide access to a website and toll-free helpline for when family members or friends need help with stress. They can either speak with an HR manager to report issues with the employee or they may call confidentially to arrange for some counseling.
Encourage Employees’ Dependents to Stay Physically Active
According to the Mayo Clinic, any kind of physical exercise can help to reduce stress in working adults. It improves one’s mood and creates endorphins that boost happiness. This means employers should include the entire family in educational efforts to improve the health and wellness of employees. Give dependents resources to stay active, such as reduced fitness programs and walking incentives.
Workplace stress can be managed when employers take at least partial responsibility for creating programs and benefits to reduce it. Try the above tips for designing a stress-reduction program for employees and their families.