Serious workplace stress is soaring, but you can help clip its wings.
Workplace stress is more common than you may think. A vast majority (80%) of workers feel job-related stress, according to the American Institute of Stress (AIS). Nearly half say they need help learning to manage stress; and 42% say their coworkers need help.
Consider the potential impact of stress on your workers. In an AIS study:
· Nearly half of respondents said their job is very or extremely stressful, and three-quarters said they believe that workers have more on-the-job stress than a generation ago.
· 26% said they often or very often feel burned out.
· 25% said they have felt like screaming or shouting because of job stress.
· 14% said they felt like striking a coworker in the past year but didn’t.
· 18% said they have experienced some sort of threat or verbal intimidation in the past year; and 10% said they are concerned about an individual at work who they fear could become violent.
Stress can last for weeks or even months, and managing this problem can be challenging for HR. The federal Office of Personnel Management suggests a few tips on how to manage worker stress:
· Keep lines of communication open. Employees will feel more in control if you listen to them with an open mind before making decisions that affect them.
· Do everything possible to lessen the source of stress. For instance, if employees are feeling overwhelmed after an emergency or crisis, set clear priorities and ensure they are followed.
· Monitor yourself, and don’t underestimate the impact of stress on you. If you are feeling stressed yourself, you may tend to withdraw from others or become less flexible/communicative than usual. While these are common reactions to stress, they can interfere with your leadership.
· Encourage teamwork and cooperation. Employees will find a situation more manageable if they are surrounded by co-workers who are support and care about them.
· Set clear work standards. Keep your standards high, while allowing as much flexibility as possible in how work gets done, particularly in high-stress situations or jobs.
· Make it clear that it’s okay to share feelings of anxiety, fatigue, or frustration without fear of judgment or retribution.
· Acknowledge the value of professional counseling, and encourage employees to get whatever help they need.
Workplace stress isn’t a problem that’s going away. As Americans are working longer and harder, absenteeism due to job stress has escalated. Up to 1 million workers are absent every day due to stress; and job-related stress causes about one in five of all last-minute no-shows. Addressing stress proactively can help keep employees happier, healthier, and more productive in the long-term and, in particular, when a natural disaster or other emergency occurs.