Your all-star employee, Maria, has her shoulders slumped, eyes glassy, staring into her computer screen. Her manager has just given her an impossible deadline for a project she doesn’t have the resources or time to complete. Her email notifications constantly ding like an alarm with urgent tasks.

It’s 10 minutes after 5 pm on a Friday. “A bunch of us are hitting up Happy Hour at Bello’s if you’d like to join us now,” invites her friendly co-worker Joe from the IT department. 

Maria lets out a deep sigh. “Thanks, but I can’t. I’m buried under this project. And now my boss has added even more to my plate,” she said, her voice trembling with stress. 

April is Stress Awareness Month.  

Workplace stress is a growing concern for American employees and employers. According to the 2022-2023 Aflac WorkForces Report, more than half (59%) of American workers are experiencing at least moderate levels of burnout, a significant increase over the previous year. Stress not only affects employees’ home lives but also their work lives and productivity.  

Workplace stress can lead to physical and mental health problems, decreased productivity, and poor job satisfaction. It’s important to take steps to reduce stress in the workplace. Let’s look at ten tactics to create a healthier work environment. 

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1 – Consider Mandatory PTO and Daily Breaks  

Protocol reports that San Francisco-based tech company HOVER sets a minimum on its unlimited PTO policy of three weeks. And one of those weeks also has to be a full consecutive week off.  

Some companies give everyone PTO on the same week, such as the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Many other businesses observe company holidays such as Independence Day. The company Evernote gives all employees a $1,000 bonus when they take five consecutive days off. HubSpot is a company that has implemented a “Global Week of Rest” during the week of July 4th. 

2 – Relieve Stress with Fun Company Activities  

Many businesses organize a company-wide retreat. The spirit is to get away from the office and do something fun together. This can help employees create connections and work better together. 

Here at Asure, we hold a retreat each year to honor outstanding employees. This year it’s in Miami Beach.  

Company activities can be as simple as going to a sporting event, enjoying a day in the park, or going to a restaurant together. 

3 – Provide Office Diversions 

At Asure, our Burlington, Vermont, location is a dog-friendly office. Playing with a pup can be an amazing stress reliever. 

Other in-office stress relievers include: 

  • Foosball table 

  • Ping-Pong table 

  • Board games 

  • Video games 

  • A quiet library room 

4 – Identify and Mitigate Sources of Stress 

Identify sources of stress in your workplace. This may include tight deadlines, high workloads, poor communication, conflict with coworkers or supervisors, lack of control, and poor work-life balance.  

While it’s not realistic to eliminate all sources of stress, many are avoidable. Ask yourself, why are our deadlines often so tight? Some might be due to customer demands, but others might be caused by suboptimal planning or overloading workers, so there is absolutely no room for additional work. 

Are managers open and welcome to feedback from their subordinates? Sometimes employees can feel intimidated and not feel comfortable speaking up about their workloads and stress levels. A manager might need to be proactive to find out. 

5 – Enable a Healthy Work-Life Balance 

A healthy work-life balance is essential for reducing stress in the workplace. Encourage employees to take breaks, use their vacation time, and avoid working long hours. 

Additionally, consider offering flexible work arrangements such as remote work and flexible hours to help employees better manage their work and personal responsibilities. 

The Aflac report revealed that over half (56%) of employees believe that their organizations care about their well-being at least a moderate amount. This sentiment is strongest among those with a hybrid working arrangement (70%). 

6 – Encourage Open Communication 

Poor communication can be a significant source of workplace stress. Encourage open communication between employees and management to help identify and resolve potential issues before they escalate. Provide opportunities for feedback and encourage employees to express their concerns and suggestions. 

One such method for employees to provide feedback to their manager is through a 360-review process. Managers learn what their team feels is effective and what can be improved in the workplace. 

Data from our 2023 Small Business Survey of 2,065 US businesses shows that only 55% of companies conduct 360 reviews.  

7 – Give Opportunities to Exercise 

 Exercise is a powerful stress reliever. Even moderate exercise, such as walking, can have significant benefits for both physical and mental health. Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood enhancers and can help to reduce stress and anxiety.  

Tactics include:

  • Encouraging employees to take walks during lunch breaks 

  • Setting up friendly “movement” competitions where an app tracks steps and winners earn prizes. 

  • Give employees access to a gym or exercise room in your office building. 

  • Incorporate stretch breaks. Ask management to lead by example. This can be as simple as rolling neck stretches, reaching your hands up to the ceiling, and other basic stretches for 5 minutes during the workday. 

8 – Practice Mindfulness 

Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment, without judgment or distraction. There are many ways to practice mindfulness, including meditation, deep breathing, and yoga.  

Permit your teammates to set aside 5 to 10 minutes each day to practice mindfulness.  

9 – Connect with Colleagues 

Strong relationships with colleagues can be a powerful buffer against workplace stress. Encourage co-workers to connect with each other around hobbies and things like they do.  

Examples include: 

  • Workplace sports leagues such as bowling or softball 

  • Opportunities to teach a fun class to co-workers, such as cooking class 

  • Providing a stipend for a movie night 

Socializing outside of work can help to build a sense of community and support, which can help to reduce stress and improve job satisfaction. 

10 – Provide Professional Emotional Support 

Consider offering mental health benefits to employees, including access to counseling services and support groups. 

The 2022-2023 Aflac WorkForces Report shows that mental health issues have negatively affected the job performance of nearly half (46%) of the US workforce in the past year, a significant increase over 2021 (34%). More than half (51%) of employers recognize that employee mental health issues have affected their businesses over the past year.  

Despite this, only 61% of employees have access to mental health care as part of their benefits package. Nearly 80% of employees say that mental health coverage is critical. 

If you’d like to speak to an HR expert about your business, connect with us. 

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