Workplace stress is a common issue that can affect many factors including morale and capacity. In fact, an eye-opening study found that 60% of workers believe mental health affects their productivity at work. Studies show that in a normal year, more than 200 million workdays are lost due to mental health conditions ($16.8 billion in employee productivity).  

But working with your organization to prioritize training and support for employees around mental health and workplace stress can often feel like a big job for just one person or team. As a leader, you know how difficult it can be to make widespread structural changes in a company. Because the journey towards organization-wide efforts can be long, it’s a good idea to tackle smaller, more practical steps to take the pressure off in the short term.  

What can you do today about workplace stress? 

As a team leader or manager, here are several relatively straightforward ways you can help keep your employees healthier and more productive during difficult times: 

  • Be honest and transparent: Communicate with your team often, clearly and transparently. Discuss what’s happening now and what the possibilities are for the future—even the uncomfortable possibilities. Research shows that being transparent about worst-case scenarios builds trust. (It also stops gossip and rumors, another significant source of stress.) 
  • Collaborate with employees: Give employees a say in decisions that affect them—from defining work-at-home rules to major changes in the organizational structure. Not only does collaboration give employees a sense of control and value, it often leads to more innovative ideas and outcomes. 
  • Make work manageable: Clarify project priorities, so everyone knows exactly what’s critical and what can wait. Break up large projects into a series of small steps. Small victories help employees feel productive and useful—which leads to more productivity and less stress. 
  • Be flexible and realistic: Set deadlines, workload and performance expectations that take work-life balance into account. If possible, have one-on-one meetings with each employee so you can understand each person’s unique situation. 
  • Encourage employees to use their benefits: Many organizations offer benefits that help employees deal with stress, like mental health helplines, fitness programming, or information on stress-reduction techniques. Be sure your employees know how to access and use these benefits. (Also, be sure everyone is up to date on current sick leave and related policies.)

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Workplace stress is not an anomaly 

During the last few years, an unclear future plus personal concerns and unique workplace challenges have sent employee stress and anxiety to a whole new level. Even now, as most workplaces have established a new normal, stress remains prevalent. By using the lessons learned during the pandemic years, you can help alleviate your employees’ stress in the future. 

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