April is International Stress Awareness month, and with more focus on employee health and wellbeing than ever before, it seems apt to ask - “are we doing enough when it comes to stress management in the workplace?”.
Being under temporary pressure is not a feeling unfamiliar to most, but becoming overwhelmed by stress can lead to burnout (a state of chronic stress). Left unchecked, burnout can give rise to both mental and physical symptoms - anxiety, depression, headaches, backache and insomnia.
Unsurprisingly, burned out employees are not employees who can perform at their best. Stress is not a state conducive to productivity or quality - along with depression and anxiety, stress accounts for 70 million work days lost each year.
As chronic workplace stress compromises the success of your workforce as whole, ensuring workplace stress is appropriately managed should be a business priority.
So you’re on board, but what material changes can you make to be better?
At eduMe we have introduced some simple initiatives to minimize stressors and create a healthy, productive working environment and ultimately - a more successful workforce.
Related: What is Workforce Success?
Read on for 6 strategies for managing stress in the workplace…
How employers can reduce stress in the workplace
Encourage employee health and wellbeing
Health is holistic. There are many things that impact an individuals’ feeling of wellbeing - from their environment, to their relationships, to working hours, activity levels, diet and number of hours slept daily.
Resultantly, there is no single quick fix or silver bullet solution when it comes to improving employee health and wellbeing. Instead, it is an ongoing commitment and and long-term undertaking that requires a multi-pronged approach, in order to ensure you are catering as many differing needs at once.
Equally you can’t force anyone’s hand when it comes to engaging with wellbeing initiatives, but a conscientious employer will simply provide the means for their employees’ self-betterment (and, make a point to remind them of the resources available to them!).
At eduMe we try strive to improve wellbeing at work by encouraging the following:
1. A balanced diet
The association between diet and wellbeing is long established. A high dietary intake of fruit and vegetables - in particular berries, citrus and leafy green vegetables - has been found to contribute to reducing psychological distress, depressive symptoms and improving optimism and self-efficacy.
For this reason, we ensure the office is always stocked with fresh fruit and healthy snacks, which also aid in providing essential ‘water cooler moments’, where the team can informally socialize.
2. Building connections with team members
The value of strong professional bonds are often underestimated, with people seeing a clear cut line between ‘work friends’ and ‘real friends’.
But there is a concrete link between workplace friendships and employee performance - people who have a ‘best friend’ at work are 34% more engaged than those who don’t.
This makes sense - we spend a third (or 90,000 hours) of our lives in a work environment, and as environment significantly impacts mood, it’s important you feel comfortable and connected to those you around you.
“Adults with strong social support have a reduced risk of many significant health problems, including depression [and] high blood pressure”. - Friendships: Enrich your life and improve health
Small social events make all the difference in keeping bonds strong and team morale high.
At eduMe we utilize Donut to organise cross-team Virtual Coffees. Every two weeks, Donut connects 3 teammates together at random, so they can catch up and check in with each other.
We also try to gather over food. If not in-person during a catered office lunch (provide biweekly) or Monday morning breakfast, then digitally. In lockdown, we began running a fortnightly ‘Cooking Club’. Every other week, a different meal kit is mailed to employees’ doors, and we share our creations in a group channel.
3. Activity and relaxation
Aerobic exercise has been shown to have anxiety and depression reducing effects as it increases serotonin release in the brain. To reap the rewards, an individual needn’t engage in strenuous workouts (in fact - overexertion can be detrimental). Simply moving around results in increased synthesis and release of serotonin.
When we’re in the office, we offer employees an optional half an hour yoga class every Tuesday morning through wellness platform Urban. Yoga relaxes participants by aiding breathing and reducing heart rate, all which help the body respond to stress more efficiently.
In addition to traditional seating we also offer standing desks, so people can improve their posture and stretch their legs more during office hours. One study found that those using standing desks reported less stress and fatigue than those who remained sedentary all day - in fact 87% of those using standing desks reported increased energy.
While exercise is important, so is relaxation. We again use Urban to offer employees a monthly massage. The platform provide a link to be shared amongst your team, so everyone can easily book a slot with a massage therapist that suits their personal schedule.
As physical health is just one component of wellbeing, we try to promote self-care by addressing mental health too.
We partner with Spill, all-in-one mental health support that connects directly through Slack. Spill allows employees access video therapy through Slack, making emotional support open to everyone in just a few clicks, without waiting lists or hurdles.
You can also ‘Ask a Therapist’ about anything that’s playing on your mind, whether that’s work-related, relationships, wellbeing - anything!
Our employees then receive a thoughtful reply within a couple of UK working days, written by a therapist from scratch. There is also access to plenty of Spill resources to help look after your mental health - exercises, articles, and crisis lines.
5. Flexible working
The hours that work best for some, may not be ideal for others. Some may have children that need chaperoning, and others may find their productivity peak occurs first thing in the morning. We encourage people to work the hours that best suit their schedule (and were recognized by Flexa as a ‘truly flexible employer’ for it). Night owls are free to start their working day a little later, and any morning people can start work as early as they like!
If you can, try and introduce a level of flexibility as to when you need people in the office (or available online). Naturally, some are reticent about returning to the office. Is it possible to introduce a permanent working from home policy?
Remote work can result in a healthier work-life balance, with less time lost to commuting and employees working on their own optimal schedule 82% of workers, who were given the option to telecommute, now experience less stress.
We even offer each employee a personal stipend to improve their home offices, so they can have whatever they need to ensure working from home is as comfortable as working in the office.
6. Learning & Development
Famously, in 2004, Google introduced a management philosophy known as “20% time”. In a letter penned by founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the company revealed they “encourage our employees, in addition to their regular projects, to spend 20% of their time working on what they think will most benefit Google”, with the rationale behind it being that “this empowers them to be more creative and innovative. Many of our significant advances have happened in this manner.”
And they were right. The 20% project was responsible for birthing features like Gmail, AdSense and Google News.
While any benefits you can provide are great for your team, it’s not enough to just provide perks if you don’t also empower your employees to perform at their best.
At eduMe, we encourage weekly time to read, learn and engage with information that’s going to help team members develop personally and professionally. In addition to this we offer a personal learning budget every year for things like training, books and education.
And our product is one that empowers modern companies globally to achieve Workforce Success - the success of the whole that is achieved after first ensuring each individual can succeed.
No matter where your people are, eduMe allows you to provide them with seamless access to relevant information, turning them into motivated, productive, safe and compliant individuals via effective, engaging training delivered in bite-sized bursts.