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Helping Employees Cope with Workplace Stress

You might have noticed it’s been a stressful couple of years. We even have the numbers to prove it: Gallup’s 2021 State of the Global Workplace found that more than half (57%) of workers have been experiencing daily stress due to the pandemic. Worse, over two-thirds (69%) of employees say “2020 was the most stressful time of their entire careers,” according to Randstad Sourceright, and 2021 wasn’t the improvement that many people hoped it would be. The pandemic is still with us, after all; and the Omicron variant has ensured 2022 hasn’t left the pandemic behind either.

That ongoing stress has been reflected in employers’ evolving benefit offerings to assist and support employees through these hardships. According to advocacy group Business Group Health, half (50%) of employers planned to offer stress management programs to employees in 2020. Now, 81% are planning the same for 2022 – an increase of over 30 points.

But what does that mean? What can employers do to help their employees better manage the stress they’ve been experiencing?

1: Offer an Employee Assistance Program as part of your benefits package. EAPs enable access to counseling and other mental health resources, as well as referrals to other services that can help with specific challenges that employees may be facing.

2: Respect the work/life balance. Make sure employees take breaks and can sign off from work at the end of the day. Clear boundaries between work and home life that both employers and employees recognize and respect, especially for remote workers, can be crucial to controlling stress.

3: Facilitate healthy stress responses. Employees can struggle to deal with the stress they’re experiencing, and employers can help by providing stress-relieving activities, like mindfulness, relaxation, and exercise classes, tools, and resources. If nothing else, encourage employees to go for a walk on their breaks.

4: Communicate with employees. Managers obviously need to be careful and sensitive in how they broach conversations about employee stress and emotional well-being; but if the stress is bad enough that it is affecting work, it’s important to communicate. Don’t attack the employee; instead, focus on understanding what’s going on and collaboratively coming up with solutions.

5: Make sure employees have the support, training, and tools they need. One major contributor of workplace stress is the absence of all the things workers need to do their jobs effectively, ranging from skills to equipment. Arm your workers with everything they need to do their job effectively and easily.

6: Focus on change management. Another major contributor to workplace stress: unnecessarily difficult changes. The nearly overnight shift to remote working for many employees back in 2020 is the prime example here, but the pandemic has forced all kinds of enormous changes. When those changes are implemented haphazardly and inconsistently, or employees are required to make changes without understanding why or without the tools they need to do to adapt, the change will add to employee stress.

Ultimately, it’s probably impossible for employers to outright eliminate stress for their employees, but they can indisputably do a lot to help their teams minimize and navigate their stresses gracefully and productively.

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