How to Reduce Employee Stress in Meaningful Ways



We are more stressed out than ever.

The number of people who suffer from stress has rapidly increased since the start of the pandemic.

Whether the stress comes from home or it’s work-related, one thing is clear: Stress affects your employees and your workplace.

Stress: A Breakdown

When you experience a significant challenge or change, your body has a physical and mental response, known as fight or flight.

And if a situation can’t be resolved immediately, you can become mentally and physically frazzled. This experience is stress.

Stress is completely normal. Human beings are designed to experience stress, react, and manage it accordingly.

But when you have prolonged stress — meaning an issue has not been managed or resolved — the body is robbed of rest. Being constantly stressed puts your body’s RPM in the red zone.

When your body can’t relax and recharge properly, a variety of symptoms can start to appear.

Why We Need To Reduce Stress

Prolonged stress in the body can manifest as mental illness, migraines, and fatigue. And stress can lead to even bigger problems — including serious illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.

But the good news is that stress can be managed and reduced with simple approaches. And helping to keep your stress levels down helps — well, everyone.

How Stress Manifests

The Negative Health Impacts Of Stress

Stress can affect your body, your thoughts, your feelings, and your behaviour.

In the body, stress can be experienced in a variety of painful ways, from pounding headaches to full-blown migraines, and muscle aches creeping all the way down your neck and back.

Over the long term, stress can also cause high blood pressure, gut and digestion issues.

Your thoughts and feelings can also be disrupted by bouts of stress. Irritability and anger, restlessness, sadness and depression, and anxiety are all side effects of stress.

These may show up as an uncalled-for angry outburst, social withdrawal, lethargy, and changed eating patterns.

In women, the symptoms of stress can be even more harmful.

Headaches and migraines are far more common for stressed women than stressed men. Women who are experiencing stress may also have difficulty becoming pregnant and may lose their menstrual cycles.

And if stress is chronic, recovery can take weeks, months, or even longer.

The Cost of Stress to Your Business

A stressed employee is an expensive employee.

According to a study by the World Health Organization, an estimated 12 billion working days are lost every year to depression and anxiety, which can be caused by stress.

That’s a grand total of $1 trillion US in lost productivity per year due to stress.

In a study by Gallup, stress can cause absenteeism, accidents, quality defects, shrinkage, and higher turnover, which can lead to major reductions in financial performance.

It’s even more expensive to lose an employee completely.

Mental health issues caused by stress — including anxiety, depression and burnout — factor into employees’ decisions to leave their jobs, if not the entire industry.

When is Workplace Stress Too Much?

Stress At Work: Warning Signs

It can be hard to identify stress in an employee because everyone experiences mental and physical stress differently, which makes the symptoms harder to spot. They’re not easily quantified.

One metric that can be measured for employee stress is your employees’ well-being.

Employee well-being is the overall health and wellness of your company’s people. Employees with increased well-being experience the least amount of stress.

It’s impossible to be relaxed and stressed at the same time.

Employees with low well-being can feel disengaged and isolated, and they may worry about insignificant details. None of these symptoms tend to “look like” stress.

And the challenge of identifying stress is elevated with remote and hybrid work environments. What you see on screen is often not a complete picture.

Strategies for Managing Stress

Being able to recognize common stress symptoms can help you manage them.

Body, Thought, Feeling, and Behaviour Recognition

When you are able to recognize symptoms of stress in yourself, you will be able to recognize them and help others who are also experiencing stress.

Here are some tools that you can use when you are dealing with a challenge or change:

  • If you are feeling an ache or pain, backtrack your recent movements. Did it come from the gym or a weird stretch? Or is it stress?
  • Are you really feeling isolation or loneliness? Are you feeling disconnected from your workplace? How does your body respond to these feelings?
  • When you have an irregular outburst of anger, sadness, or you feel another heightened emotion, think about whether the reaction was reasonable for the situation. Was it called for? If not, you may be experiencing stress.

By recognizing and responding to the effects of stress in your own body, you can help to reduce stress for your employees.

Provide a Culture that Includes Consistent, Positive Employee Feedback

Workplace stress can be significantly reduced with a culture that provides support and positive employee feedback.

Stress is often a result of uncertainty over change and challenges. Providing positive reinforcement and feedback, especially during periods of high stress, can boost employee morale and provide confirmation that they’re doing a great job.

Rather than waiting for internal reviews to share positive feedback (which may only happen once a year), connecting 1:1 on a regular basis helps employees continuously meet expectations and feel good about their work, all while reducing workplace stress.

According to a study, wellness-focused workplaces provide their employees with:

  • Enhanced livelihood
  • A sense of confidence, purpose and achievement
  • An opportunity for positive relationships and inclusion in a community
  • A platform for structured routines, among other benefits

A positive culture impacts your company’s performance. And your employees can shape the culture.

Consider Providing Flexible Work Hours

Another meaningful way to help reduce employee stress in the workplace is by allowing for remote and hybrid schedules.

According to another study, changing work schedules to allow for more freedom and flexibility decreased the likelihood of job stress by 20%, and increased the likelihood of job satisfaction by 62%.

Letting employees work from home, letting them choose half-days, or even adjusting the workday by a couple of hours in either direction can have positive impacts on your employees’ well-being, and may even increase productivity.

Happier employees, better work.

Utilize The Power of Micro-Breaks During The Workday

One of the most effective, efficient, and easy tactics to reduce workplace stress is incorporating breaks.

But scrolling through social media or venting to a colleague is not a break! Workplace stress can be alleviated by taking proper breaks that recharge, realign, and refocus the body and mind.

The Benefits of a 7-Minute Break

In just 7 minutes, with the right tools and resources, entire moods can be changed for the better. Bodies can be relieved of soreness and aches and pains, and mental clarity and stimulation can be reignited.

Effective tools are things like guided meditation or a quick stretch, all of which can be found within the Bright Breaks platform.

With Bright Breaks, employees receive daily break recommendations matching their interests. And it only takes 7 minutes to get back on track with the right tools.

By having access to our beneficial guided breaks when they need them most, your employees can feel confident and supported.

Check in with your mind and body, and then schedule a demo with us to see what our guided breaks can do for you and your whole team.

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What you should do now

  1. Promote best practices for remote worker health with free copy/paste, pre-written scripts you can post every week in your internal communications channels.

  2. Learn from top HR & People Leaders about the latest strategies to keep your remote workforce happy, healthy, and connected on The Virtual Vibe Podcast.

  3. Contact our sales team to discover the benefits of our built-for-the-workplace wellness solution, compared to B2C offerings like Calm or Headspace.
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