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Coping with work stress in and out of the workplace

John Sherman
2018-11-06

Has someone ever said to you, “Don’t bring your work home?” If so, you’re just one among millions. Regardless of the industry, job title, or responsibilities, a lot of people carry the burden of bringing work home. Especially for those in leadership roles, they worry about deadlines, customer satisfaction, product or service quality, job safety, and the list goes on.

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Current statistics

  • Job Stress – A study performed by Everest College found that of all workers in the United States, 83 percent feel stressed. The primary contributors include a lack of job security, inadequate benefits, low pay, too much work, insufficient professional development opportunities, and mismatched position, responsibilities, or industry.
  • Productivity – In an extensive report generated by Health Advocate, experts found that stress has a significant impact on an employee’s productivity. Annually, stress leads to lost productivity to a tune of $300 billion.
  • Accidents and Injuries – Of all accidents in the workplace, stress is responsible for up to 80 percent. The more accidents occur, the higher the risk of injury and even death for some types of industries. More stress on the job is also the reason claims for worker’s compensation are on the rise.
  • Missed Work – Stress is the reason roughly 1 million employees miss work every day. Absences at that level lead to a host of issues relating to production, customer satisfaction, generated revenue, and even morale among workers who don’t call in “sick.” For those who faithfully show up, 60 percent do so because they feel guilty about missing work, which only intensifies their level of stress.
  • Health Care – The cost of health care among stressed workers is considerably higher compared to non-stressed employees. According to experts, doctors can link some type of work-related stress to 90 percent of patient visits.
  • Frustration and Anger – In some work environments, employees feel extremely frustrated and stressed, which often leads to anger. In fact, a study conducted by Gallup on this very topic found 14 percent of employees felt stressed to the level of wanting to hit another worker. Another 29 percent admitted to yelling at their co-workers citing stress as the reason.
  • Work Overload – Too much work is another key contributor to stress on the job. Even with a stabilized economy and business growth, a lot of companies feel the need to squeeze every ounce of work from their employees as opposed to bringing more talent onboard. As a result, 70 percent of workers feel there’s no way to complete the tasks assigned in the number of work hours available per day.

The best employers still expect a lot from their workers, but they also provide them with the tools, support, and resources needed to perform optimally without becoming stressed. One way they accomplish this is by offering training. Along with in-person sessions, the top employers recognize the value of allowing employees to complete online courses. While they learn new skills or hone existing ones, they can finish the training without pushing to meet a tight deadline.

Primary causes

By learning the primary causes of stress in the workplace, you have the opportunity to find solutions.

Low wages

Although a lot of people love their jobs, they still work to earn a paycheck. The goal is to make enough money to pay the bills and enjoy life a little. However, low wages are a continuing issue. Some companies may not be in a position to increase their employees’ wages while others choose not to.

Either way, if people work hard, volunteer for special projects, or come in early or stay late to help a department catch up, it’s essential to recognize their efforts. One report showed that as much as 25 percent of workers in the US would switch jobs for only a 10 percent increase in pay.

Even if your company can’t afford to increase wages, find other ways to compensate them for their dedication and work. Often, simple gestures like a $25 gift card, leaving work a few hours early without having their pay docked, or ordering pizza for an entire department goes a long way in reducing stress and achieving employee satisfaction.

Too much work

Remember, 70 percent of employees feel they have too much work on their plate. Especially for workers who care about the company and strive to please their managers, not finishing tasks creates a lot of stress.

For this situation, spend time with the leaders of various departments to identify the issue and determine a way to fix it. When a worker feels overloaded with work, there are several potential causes such as poor management, an employee working in the wrong position, or a shortage of help within that group.

Once you and your department heads find out what’s going on, you can then take the appropriate action. Often, online training courses help to teach employees excellent time management skills, making it possible for them to stay on top of work. Also, you could have your leadership team take advantage of training in whatever area it needs improving.

Boredom

Most people would rather stay busy at work as opposed to twiddling their thumbs. While it might seem that reading a book, playing games on a tablet or computer, or calling friends during work hours would be fun, the fact is people with no viable responsibilities feel bored, unappreciated, and unimportant. Boredom alone is enough to cause stress but when you add in the other negative emotions, the problem skyrockets.

Whether a receptionist, mail clerk, filer, or any job for that matter, your leaders need to find ways to keep them busy. Keep in mind this isn’t “busy work,” but actual job responsibilities that help other departments. Your management team should take time to understand what an individual has interest or skills in, and based on that, select work he or she enjoys and excels at doing.

As explained by Psychology Today, “Worrying about the passage of time and lack of events and stimulation to fill that time are not the only issue involved in boredom. There is also a more global aspect of a person’s motivation to work.” The experts go on to say that when employees do something genuine or useful to others, they find their work worthwhile.

No employee feedback

When running an organization, it’s critical that you and your leaders set clear expectations. Based on those, your managers need to provide employees with feedback, good and bad, to help them become more efficient and confident in their roles. Just as your leaders should point out areas that need improvement, they should also verbally recognize employees when they do something great.

Insufficient balance

Finding the perfect work and personal balance is tough, made even more challenging due to technology. The issue is a vast number of people check work-related emails, review contracts, return phone calls, and handle other matters while off the clock using a smartphone. Feeling the need to take care of business away from work creates unnecessary stress.

For this, always lead by example. As a business owner, make sure your executives, department heads, and staff aren’t required to perform work-related tasks while away from the job. Although some will still do it, they should know it’s not mandated.

Not only do you want to limit the number of hours your employee spends at work each week, but also, when someone has a doctor’s appointment, a sick child, or a car that requires servicing, have a plan in place that allows for some degree of flexibility.

Lack of growth opportunity 

Even if you have a smaller company, find opportunities for your dedicated employees to advance as your business grows. Whether changing positions or adopting new responsibilities in their current role, do what you can to help your staff move forward. People who feel stuck in a dead-end job experience a lot of stress. The unhappier they are, the less they perform.

The last thing you want is for someone interested in growth to become burned out or frustrated to the point they move on. That’s the kind of talent you want to retain. It’s already difficult to find hard-working and loyal employees. Don’t lose someone because they feel trapped rather than empowered.

Coping mechanisms

As part of looking for remedies to correct work-related problems that lead to employee stress, it’s vital for you to develop or adopt various coping mechanisms for your organization. By doing so, you show your entire staff that you care and you’re willing to do the necessary things to curb stress in the work environment rather than for it to control your workers.

Wouldn’t it be nice if work-related stress just stopped? Since that’s not going to happen, you need to take the reins and force positive change. Following are just a few suggestions:

  • Identify Stressors – Have regular meetings with your managers about stress and stress-related topics. Ask them to identify stressors within their respective departments. The first step to making positive changes starts with recognizing the problem and its underlying cause. Just as you meet with your leaders, have them do the same with their employees to help build rapport that leads to open and honest communication.
  • Provide Healthy Responses – When employees open up about their stress, they need and deserve a healthy response from their managers. Receiving support will help reduce stress, especially for workers who feel uncomfortable or intimidated by talking to their superiors.
  • Set Boundaries – Remember the comment about limiting the number of hours employees works each week? As a business owner, it’s essential to set boundaries at all levels. Experts say children actually like discipline because it makes them feel safe. The same concept applies here. By establishing boundaries where they are needed, your staff will feel safer and less stressed.
  • Downtime – While you need to set boundaries, it’s also crucial to have some flexibility. For this, there’s a ton of options. A few considerations include offering a four-day work week instead of five, allowing some employees to work split hours, or perhaps setting up a telecommuting program. After all, things always come up that people can’t take care of after 5 or over the weekend.
  • Special Programs – Along with offering online training courses to your leaders and their teams, consider starting other special programs. For instance, you could have a yoga instructor come in once a month to teach a class. Don’t forget about the importance of team-building exercises as well, which help bring down stress both at work and at home.

For reducing or eliminating stress at work that carries over to the home, remember the value of online training. Go1 ranks among the most respected platforms with virtually thousands of professionally developed podcasts, articles, videos, and more.

Go1 helps millions of people in thousands of organizations engage in learning that is relevant, effective and inspiring.
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