When is the last time one of your employees or someone you manage came up to you and said something along the lines of, “I need a break. I’m too stressed out.”? And more importantly, when is the last time you actually did something to try and remedy the situation?
Workplace stress is an alarmingly common attribute of the American workforce; over 4 in 5 workers report that they struggle from work-related stress, and as a result, businesses lose over $300 billion a year because of lost productivity due to that stress.
There are two industries that don’t mind the widespread workplace stress, though. Annually, $190 billion is spent in healthcare costs due to it, not to mention it’s a direct cause of over 120,000 deaths per year. So at least the lights are staying on at hospitals and funeral homes throughout the country.
Wait a minute…
No, that’s not a typo: workplace stress causes over one hundred thousand people to lose their life every single year. Looking at that number on average, over 300 people per day in the United States die in part due to workplace stress. Over 13 people per hour. One person every five minutes. For comparison’s sake, the estimated numbers of deaths per year due to smoking is 480,000. Meanwhile, and pretty surprisingly, drug overdoses caused 70,000 deaths in 2017.
One of those three is considered an epidemic. Another has constant campaigns running against it, especially to our country’s youth. And the third (the workplace stress) is just commonly accepted as “the way it is.”
Do you hear how insane that sounds?
Less than 100 people have died from the vaping “epidemic,” yet it dominates headlines and is getting an almost immediate response from the country’s leaders and lawmakers.
Now, unfortunately, curbing workplace stress probably isn’t going to be brought up in front of Congress anytime soon. So as a company’s leader, the responsibility is on your shoulders to make the workplace you manage the best it can be in order to get the most out of your employees.
Strategies for Managers to Bring Down Workplace Stress
- Effectively Communicate Goals and Expectations. Let’s just be honest here: communication is difficult, and the statistics prove it–nearly 70% of managers don’t feel confident in their ability to communicate with their employees. Yet when you look at “Now Hiring” postings, the ability to communicate both verbally and in writing is almost always on there as a requirement, and for good reason: being able to effectively communicate goals and expectations clears up misunderstandings and confusion within the workplace, and also cuts down on employee stress. Stop giving your employees vague answers to questions and be direct and to the point. Not only will they respect and trust you more, but you’ll be helping them out in giving them clear and precise guidance on how to be successful at their job. Also don’t forget that workers across multiple generations tend to have different communication preferences.
- Actually Get To Know Your Employees. Each year we’re getting closer and closer to this, but as of now, most of your employees are still human beings, not robots. But do you really know the people that you’re spending almost 1/4 of your life with? Find out what motivates Kevin, because it’s almost a guarantee that what motives him is completely different from what motivates Karen, even though they both perform the same job. Seek to actually get to know the people that work under you, and play to their strengths accordingly. Some workers thrive under a micro-managing style of leader, while others prefer the hands-off approach. Manage accordingly and you’ll not only see workplace stress decrease, but productivity should increase substantially.
- Listen When You Ask For Feedback. Open door policies within companies are another one of those common bullet points that job seekers have come to expect to hear about during the interview process. “Yeah, we have an open door policy here. We want you to come to upper management if you have a problem or a suggestion.” In fact, these days it’d probably be weird to not hear that from your boss. But as a manager, there’s a big difference in opening yourself up to suggestions and actually listening when someone comes to you with feedback. Don’t waste employees’ time by scrolling through your email as they “vent.” Most of the time, that “venting” is due to a larger underlying problem, and it probably affects more than one person in the company.
- Face Problems Head On. As a leader, it is essentially in your job description to deal with adversity. Problems are going to arise frequently in the workplace, and it’s important to have a backbone and face them head on. You do not want to be one of those leaders that kicks the can further down the road and refuses to address a problem until absolutely forced to do so. The only thing that lingering problems do in the workplace is create more stress, so put your big boy/girl pants on and take care of the issue. Your coworkers will appreciate it immensely.
All four of these tactics for decreasing workplace stress seem relatively easy to deploy, and you may think that you’re doing a good job with them now, but the reality is that workplace stress is at such a high level in the United States that, chances are, there’s room for improvement. You will be amazed at what just those tiny tweaks can do to the attitudes of employees that you manage.
You will strengthen your workforce by doing all that you can to decrease stress. And if you decide not to? Well, don’t be surprised if your best talent goes somewhere else. A recent survey found that 40% of people that recently resigned from their jobs cited workplace stress as the primary reason, and after all, no job is worth dying over.