5 ways to help employees manage stress at work

Employee well-being is key to good business

5 ways to help employees manage stress at work
Employee well-being is increasingly becoming a huge concern for employers.

Workplaces can be stressful environments – this is not a new or revolutionary concept by any means.

Stressors in the workplace, however, have evolved as a consequence of the pandemic.

With many employees working from home, issues like mental health and work-life balance have had a huge impact on teleworkers.

And for those still working on-site or on the front lines, there are a cavalcade of new anxiety-inducing issues. For example, having to weigh out financial concerns against concerns over ones health amid a deadly pandemic was certainly not an issue we were seeing in 2019.

Employee well-being is increasingly becoming a huge concern for employers. Workplace stress can have a huge impact on businesses and organizations. While organizations should be primarily concerned with keeping their workers happy, stress isn’t good for their bottom line either.

In a nutshell: Stressed workers aren’t good for business!

If you are feeling lost and need a bit of help coming up with an action plan, here are a couple of things to look into. Not a comprehensive list by any means, but certainly a good place to start.

READ MORE: Mental health linked to quality of employer support during COVID-19: Report

1. Identify workplace stressors

Even outside of the pandemic, there are a number of typical workplace stressors that employers should be on the lookout for. The American Psychological Association (APA) says that some common workplace stressors include: Low salaries, excessive workloads, few opportunities for growth and advancement, work that isn’t engaging or challenging, lack of social support, lacking control over job-related decisions and conflicting demands or unclear performance expectations from colleagues or managers.

With the pandemic, some of these stressors may be exacerbated and some additional ones may have arisen such as increased fear over ones health or the health and wellbeing of loved ones.

2. Recognize the warning signs

This is where telework may pose a bit of a problem for employers: it’s harder to keep track of employee wellbeing when connecting through a screen.

The APA says that symptoms of stressed out workers can manifest physically such as headaches, stomach aches, high blood pressure and even heart disease. Workers may also develop anxiety, experience panic attacks or suffer from depression. The APA also says that people who deal with stress may find unhealthy coping mechanisms to handle increased stress, such as turning to drugs and alcohol.

For non-medical professionals, these may be hard to diagnose via Skype or Zoom, or even in person.

UK-based HR consultancy Citation says that signs of stressed workers include employees working longer hours which could be a sign of them struggling with their workload, workers who are visibly tired or irritable or workers taking more breaks or time off.

READ MORE: Top mobile apps to help with mental health

3. Ensure employees take paid sick leave (and vacation)

Presenteeism has actually been a huge issue during this pandemic. For example, at the start of the pandemic many workers were still showing up to work – despite displaying COVID-19 symptoms – because they were afraid of losing money or getting fired.

In Canada, paid sick leave is only legislated in Quebec, Prince Edward Island and for federally regulated workers.

The Decent Work and Health Network (DWHN), an Ontario-based organization, released a report saying that only 58 per cent of workers have access to paid sick days from their employer (this increases to 70 per cent for workers making less than $25,000). The DWHN says that workplaces with precarious jobs have become hotspots for COVID-19.

And presenteeism is as issue outside of COVID-19 too. Employers need to encourage workers to use the paid time off they are provided – both in case of ill health or simply to take a vacation and disconnect from work.

READ MORE: How to manage workplace stress in the midst of COVID-19

4. Give support employees actually want

When in doubt, ask employees what they’d like to see, and how you can help.

To do this, organizations need to be in a place where they can have open and frank discussions with their employees – which is not always the case.

Employers can perhaps send out anonymized surveys to get feedback from employees, or have one-on-one chats with their workers to ask for direct, more personalized feedback.

Some popular suggestions to help with employee well-being include flexible working, mental health support (as part of a health plan, for example), or fun events (in the era of COVID-19 these could be Zoom lunches or virtual yoga sessions).

5. Create boundaries

Easier said than done! Having a great work-life balance is essential for all workers. However as said earlier, this is something that many teleworkers are struggling with at the moment. Employers should encourage their workers to switch off when needed to make sure that their work life is not encroaching on their home life.