4 Ways Organizations Can Help Lower Stress

August 8, 2017

Why Employees and Managers Have Different Perspectives on Top Sources of Workplace Stress

You’re stressing me out!

It’s a near certainty that managers and employees will experience workplace stress from time to time. But what causes stress in managers versus their employees? And why do they so often blame each other for causing workplace stress?

Sources of Employee Stress

Is employee stress always caused by a lousy boss? No, but poor management does make it harder for employees to resolve problems at work, leading employees to feel that the stress will not ever change—a recipe for chronic exasperation and burnout.

According to Willis Towers Watson, employees’ chief concerns about work are:

  1. Inadequate staffing – when there’s a reduction in force, it often leaves the remaining employees on the team struggling to cover extra work.
  2. Low pay/pay increases – Adjusted for inflation, wages have been stagnant for more than a decade. The average corporate budget for salary increases is 3% again this year, for the fourth year running. Low pay and bonuses exacerbate employees’ financial problems, causing stress at work and at home.
  3. Unclear job expectations – This is one area that managerial skills and organizational processes for performance management can fix. Employees cannot succeed if they do not know what is expected. Teach managers to set intelligent performance objectives and communicate them clearly to employees.

What Stresses Managers?

According to a management study in Norway, 62% of managers experience pressure and a heavy workload all or most of the time. Managers have a different kind of stress from their employees. While employees can always ‘blame the boss’, managers are caught between two competing sets of demands. With employees to manage and their own executive managers to please, middle management can be a lonely, frustrating place.

Two things help managers reduce stress: greater control and autonomy and good employees. According to the Norwegian study, “managers experience significantly less stress when they feel they have a good relationship to their employees, and the employees show a positive conduct and confidence in their managers.” Further, “managers who feel they have control of their work situation and great freedom to make decisions experience less work pressure and emotional strain.”

4 Ways Organizations Can Help Lower Stress

There are several ways organizations can help employees reduce stress.

  1. First, teach managers to spot the signs of stress in their employee. Top signs include: frequent absenteeism, fatigue, lower productivity, anxiety, deteriorating relationships with coworkers, and irritability. Encourage managers to get HR involved for help with stress management.
  2. Encourage employees to use their paid time off. Employees really need a little downtime away from the workplace to relax, recharge and balance work with life. According to a survey by CareerBuilder, 61% of employees are ‘burned out’ in their jobs, yet nearly 1/3 of workers don’t take time off away from work. Even when employees take time off, they remain connected through email and mobile devices. A study by the American Psychological Association found that 53% of employees check email on weekends, 54% when home sick, and 44% from vacation. Employers should try not to demand constant connection with workers when they are out of the office.
  3. Because money and debt are huge sources of stress for employees, many employers are starting to add financial wellness training and debt reduction programs to their slate of voluntary benefits.
  4. Help employees balance responsibilities from their lives with responsibilities at work. For many, flexible working arrangements, such as flex time or telecommuting, can have a positive effect on achieving work/life balance. More than half of employers offer this benefit, according to Willis Towers Watson.

Human Resources Can Set the Right Tone

The HR department can never create an entirely stress-free organization. However, there are many ways HR can help employees and managers cope with stress. Train for management skills, stress reduction techniques and time management.  Help facilitate better relationships between management and employees. When there is a poor performing employee, help them build a case for dismissal before team morale is poisoned. Asure Software Talent Management solutions help HR build performance improvement plans and create succession plans that promote people with the right skills and temperament into management.