Workplace stress is harmful to both employees and employers due to negative health outcomes, loss of productivity, increased turnover, and more. Below are some unique ideas for employers to consider that will provide stress relief to employees at all levels of an organization.
Support your employees for who they are, right now. Encourage them to come to work as their full selves, not needing to deny any part of their personality during the time they spend in the workplace. This is particularly important for LGBTQIA+ employees who may be afraid to identify at work. Make sure it is known within your entire organization that workplace bullying and negative workplace behaviors will not be tolerated and have policies in place to address these situations. When employees can be themselves, they are happier, more productive, and can tap into their creative energy. Plus, this is simply morally the right thing to do.
Train Your Managers in Compassionate Leadership
Leaders set the tone for the entire organization. A workplace that values compassion makes space for making mistakes, provides for greater work-life balance, and understands that employees are human beings with lives outside of work that may, from time-to-time, affect their productivity. There are emerging training programs for managers to learn how to compassionately lead their teams by increasing integrity, accountability, presence, empathy, authenticity, and dignity. Compassionate leaders make a difference in the workplace by expressing grace, patience, and understanding and in return, employees feel valued, supported, and happier.
Inspire Your Leadership to Practice Self-Compassion
In addition to providing compassion to others, self-compassion is critically important. There’s a saying that goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” If your leaders are burnt out, highly self-critical, and avoid taking accountability for errors, their behavior will spill over into how they treat their staff. Leaders who regularly practice self-compassion are more likely to help colleagues with tasks and personal issues and have a greater likelihood of expressing compassion towards everyone around them.
Allow Your Employees Control Over Their Physical Space
Sometimes managers feel the need to dictate to their employees how they can set up their office space. When employees feel they have no say over how they situate their computer, desk, and other items, they may feel negativity about their workplace. This is one area that should be easy to relinquish some control for the greater good of promoting positive workplace culture. The way your employee designs their physical environment has minimal impact on you and a substantial impact on their comfort and happiness.
Do Not Buy Into Trendy Open Office Spaces
Along the lines of the previous suggestion, open offices should be a thing of the past. Once a trend that started with big tech companies, open office spaces reduce privacy and increase distractions. If employees feel that people are coming up behind them, if they need a quiet environment to concentrate, and/or if they are constantly interrupted because they do not have the ability to close a door, they will not be as productive and will likely experience frustration and increased stress. Providing some semblance of privacy, even if it is as simple as adding a door to a cubicle, can provide employees with a more controlled and less stressful environment.
Offer Meditation with the Workplace
An easy and immediate way to reduce workplace stress is to provide opportunities for your employees to practice meditation during their workday. Meditation reduces a wide variety of conditions including pain, substance use, depression, anxiety, insomnia, stress, and more. You don’t need to look far to find several apps and websites that can help you facilitate a meditation intervention including Head Space and Insight Timer, both of which offer meditations specific to the workplace. Allowing your employees to engage in 15–30-minute meditations on company time is a small investment with a potentially large pay off.
Fiercely Support Mental Health
Unfortunately, stigma still exists in the U.S. around mental health issues. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an epidemic of loneliness, depression, and anxiety, and employees cannot simply turn off these serious issues when they arrive at work. Be a leader by making it acceptable and welcome for your employees to disclose when they are struggling with a mental health problem. When your employees do not have to hide their struggles at work and can let you know things such as needing a sick day to care for their mental health, they can let go of presenting a façade because you are building mutual trust and are creating a safe space for vulnerability.
There are many things employers can do to alleviate workplace stress and pressures well beyond the suggestions provided here. Even if you select one idea to implement now, you will demonstrate to your workplace that you are committed to developing and supporting a positive and healthy workplace culture. When you care about your employees and you act accordingly, your employees will be more invested in doing their absolute best.