How To Turn Up Production By Evading Employee Stress
No one is immune from stress—frontline workers, managers, even the C-suite. Especially after the events of the last few years, HR and business leaders certainly know the toll that stress can take—but it’s incumbent upon those leading the people function to think about stress strategically. Because whether you like it or not, it’s already affecting your bottom line.
The American Institute of Stress estimates that burnout—the result of chronic, uncontrolled stress—costs American employers more than $300 billion every year. What’s the connection? Stressed-out employees are more likely to miss work, driving up staffing costs, and are also at risk of being distracted on the job, which can cause productivity to plummet and also put the organization at risk of healthcare and legal costs. That’s not to mention that employees grappling with stress are overall less engaged with their work and their role in the organization, which could make them a flight risk—and put your entire retention strategy in jeopardy.
What can employers do?
First, as April is Stress Awareness Month, it’s a prime opportunity to take the first step toward reducing employee stress—talking about it! Stressed-out workers want to hear from their leadership: They want to see those at the top actively reducing stigma around mental health challenges, sharing their own stories and modeling healthy boundary-setting.
It’s all about communication. So, instead of managers following an annual or semi-annual performance review model—which can feel static and outdated—shift to more continuous feedback. In this approach, not only do employees get the benefit of ongoing guidance, which itself can reduce stress, they also have the opportunity to share challenges and even offer input for improvements. These informal check-ins are a great way to ensure employees feel heard and valued, which can be a critical step toward alleviating stress.
Considering employee stress should also be key to larger employee listening strategies. In annual engagement surveys, or ongoing pulse surveys, for instance, zero in on the factors that could be driving up employee stress—and solicit suggestions for how the organization can help. Importantly, take action on those ideas. When employees see that the organization recognizes their challenges and is actively working to meet those needs, you’re going to have a more satisfied workforce.
Wellness also needs to be at the core of any modern company’s benefits strategy. From robust healthcare coverage to financial guidance, taking a holistic approach to benefits can help employers consider and confront all of the many factors that are contributing to employee stress today. And when it comes to wellness programs—whether you offer incentives for physical activity, complimentary yoga sessions or courses on meditation, any wellness strategy should be designed with the individual employee population in mind. For instance, if you have a largely remote population, tailor offerings to the unique stressors that at-home workers face.
Stress is inevitable. But with a proactive approach that centers your employees and their unique needs, employers can meet stress with empathy—and ultimately strengthen their workforce and their bottom line.
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