Stress causes US businesses to suffer losses of $300 billion annually.
It is not any surprise that workplace stress is a leading cause of emotional and physical health issues.
A healthy employee, fit in mind and body, is a better employee, which translates to a more profitable outcome in every way.
The reasons are usual and have existed for decades.
- Performance and anxiety about targets
- Long commutes
- The boredom that comes with underemployment of skills
- Harassment and bullying
- Downsizing and fear of layoffs
- Lack of promotion
- Lack of rapport with colleagues
- Real or perceived lack of recognition coupled with low pay
However, very little is usually done to accept that there is indeed a problem and that the issue of workplace stress has to be addressed.
An entrepreneur has the responsibility of mitigating the causes of workplace stress as far as possible. It is not an easy task, but it is not impossible either.
What is primarily needed is a change in mindset and to view the business as not only a profit-generating entity but one that cares for the wellness of its employees and the society at large also. Of course, this view goes entirely against the top and bottom line-driven business model that has come to exist.
But entrepreneurs can bring massive disruption and change the system as no one else in modern society can.
So what can you as an entrepreneur do to lessen the stress your employees feel? We take a look.
Make wellness a priority –
Physical activity leads to the release of endorphins. Endorphins are feel-good neurotransmitters that cause the well-known “runner’s high.”
As little as 10 minutes of physical activity can have beneficial effects.
How to make your employees get more physical activity?
- Encourage them to go on a walk or jog at lunchtime. If possible, sponsor their gym memberships.
- Buy them fitness trackers and have them upload the data. Those employees who walk 10000 steps a day can be given gifts to recognize their effort. A power bank or portable smoothie blender with an inspirational motto printed by a customized label design partner such iCustomLabel as is perfect. You can create a personalized label or stickers with some text for your employees.
- Remove sugary snacks from the office and substitute it with fresh fruits and oatmeal bars.
- Encourage your employees to limit their intake of caffeine to no more than 2-3 times daily.
- Have a yoga and meditation teacher train those who want to learn once weekly at the office. Meditation is a proven stress-buster, but there is an initial skepticism that is hard to overcome.
Have flexible working hours –
This might seem to be more challenging to implement, but with the enormous advances in technology, there is no reason why employees cannot, at times, work from home.
Cisco Webex and GoToMeeting have been around for well over a decade.
Google Duo and Facetime provide perfect multi-party video calling.
Most of the work that employees do is done on cloud-based software like Zoho, Google Docs, and Office 365.
Also, it is a good idea to have a “no-meeting” day. With everyone always collaborating through email, Skype, WhatsApp, the traditional meeting has become slightly irrelevant.
Worrying about getting through the remaining workload by the end of the day while a colleague rambles on about some arcane point adds to stress.
Show your gratefulness –
There are a couple of ways to do it – with your checkbook and your demeanor.
As the boss, your behavior and bearing are of far more important than you think. Are you stressed? Is it showing? Then have no doubt that your employees are stressed too. After all, their existence from rent to savings is linked to you.
To reduce their stress, you have to work at reducing your stress. Yes, there have been famed entrepreneurs who were incredibly boorish. We are talking of Jobs and his famed temper.
But that was accompanied by his brilliance and charisma, which to no small degree, drove Apple to become a household name.
Be kind to your employees. Be grateful to them.
Kind words and celebratory plaques work up to a point, but it is essential to have a transparent monetary reward system in place.
The difficulty is not so much in awarding a pecuniary benefit but making the process transparent beyond all doubt. That, someone, received a bonus, and others did not should never lead to rancor and more stress!
One of the ways to approach this is to make broad performance metrics available le to all employees once every six months.
Provide counseling –
Too many companies provide psychotherapy for more motivation and productivity and not for stress.
However, recent advancements in Cognitive Behavior Therapy have shown that it is possible to relieve stress at the workplace through dialogue.
Originally designed to help suicidal people cope, it has now evolved into a technique of teaching non-judgemental acceptance and observation of the world around us.
Needless to say, being able to accept the flow is one of the best ways to cope with the constant change at startups.
Focus on teams –
An easy way to lower stress is to put the blame on a team (if such guilt has to be allotted) rather than upon an individual.
For centuries this is how armies have coped. Success and failure are shared from a platoon to a division. That is how soldiers have been able to survive unimaginable stress – shared blame and shame.
You could also do the same and ensure that no one individual ever gets to be blamed.
Workplace stress is real. Those who are sitting in the corner office often forget what it is like to be down in the trenches.
Empathy can play a significant role in alleviating stress. You have to be creative about how you tailor and adapt the advice above into your organization.