Don’t Stress Out: Tips to Combat Top Employee Health and Safety Risk

Don’t Stress Out: Tips to Combat Top Employee Health and Safety Risk

By Brian Keefer

Tech startups are famous for establishing “cool” workplaces with ping pong tables, hammocks, free food, and brightly colored fun spaces. While the reasons for creating a chill work environment may vary, these companies may be onto something that could benefit their efforts for employee wellness and safety – stress reduction.

According to the American Stress Institute, in the United States alone, job stress costs companies more than $300 billion annually as a result of:

  • Accidents
  • Absenteeism
  • Employee turnover
  • Diminished productivity
  • Direct medical, legal and insurance costs
  • Workers’ compensation awards and legal judgments

The impact of stress in the workplace extends beyond the company’s walls. Stress doesn’t just vanish as employees leave work for the day. A stressful work environment can contribute to problems such as headache, stomachache, sleep disturbances, short temper and difficulty concentrating. Chronic stress can result in anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. Ultimately, stress can contribute to health conditions such as depression, obesity and heart disease, all of which results in increased health issues among employees and increased costs for employers.

Work-related stress is the top workplace health issue and a major occupational risk, ranking above physical inactivity and obesity, according to statistics from the CDC Foundation. In a survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), one in three American workers reports being chronically stressed while at work.

Many companies have invested in health and wellness programs, but that investment alone is not enough. But before going out to buy a new ping pong table, consider the following low-cost tips that could boost existing efforts and make a difference in reducing stress in the workplace:

Lead by example. In order to reduce stress in the workplace, it’s important that managers and leaders lead by example. In the APA survey, 73 percent of employees with senior managers who are involved and show commitment to wellness initiatives said their organization helps employees develop a healthy lifestyle. On the flip side, only 11 percent who do not have that leadership support said the same. In addition, when leaders are involved, the benefits extend beyond stress reduction. Employees are more motivated, more satisfied with their jobs, more likely to recommend their company as a good place to work, and more likely to stay. So, when your company promotes a wellness activity, such as a walk, health fair or health screenings, encourage your team members to participate and try to join in yourself. Also, set the example by taking your PTO and leaving the office on time once in a while to spend time with family or friends.

Create social opportunities. Employees spend a lot of time with their co-workers, and it’s critical that they get along. It’s also helpful if they know more about that guy in the corner than the fact that he talks too loudly on the phone. Plus, social activity can help reduce stress, boost morale and strengthen teams. Look for opportunities to provide time for people to relax, socialize and get to know each other. Depending on the size of your team or organization, there are many ideas that you can implement, such as:

  • Hold a monthly celebration with cake, cookies or cupcakes for that month’s birthdays or service anniversaries
  • Host a daily coffee break
  • Go out to lunch together
  • Set aside an hour a week to bring the team together for a game or team-building exercise
  • Schedule a reception before or after a town hall meeting with light refreshments

Communicate with your employees. Effective communications will play a key role in informing employees about wellness and well-being programs and promoting related activities. However, communications can benefit organizations in other ways as well. In the APA survey, only 53 percent of employees said they feel valued by their company and only 47 percent said the recognition they receive reflects their contributions to the organization. Leaders have tremendous opportunity to provide recognition and show how employees are valued. In addition, when organizations establish two-way communications, they are more likely to hear the concerns, ideas and thoughts of their employees, which provides the means to surface new ways to reduce stress and build a positive work environment.

These tips do not require a large monetary investment, but they do require commitment, effort and time from leaders. However, by reducing stress in the workplace, you will achieve a tremendous return that will benefit your employees and your company’s bottom line.

And if you’ve always wanted a ping-pong table at work, this may be your chance.

Sources:

  • >www.stress.org
  • www.apa.org/helpcenter
  • www.cdcfoundation.org
  • American Psychological Association. “Workplace well-being linked to senior leadership support, new survey finds: Less than half of US workers believe their employer supports a healthy lifestyle.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 June 2016.

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