Job Stress

The nature of work is changing at whirlwind speed. New technology, new insecurities about layoffs and downsizings, and new job demands all lead to stress in the workplace. And job stress poses a serious threat to the health of workers and, ultimately, the health of an organization. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) provides insight on job related stress and how we can alleviate the problem within an organization.

Job stress has become a common and costly problem in the American workplace, leaving few workers untouched. Recent studies report the following:

• One-fourth of employees view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives.

• Three-fourths of employees believe the worker has more on-the-job stress than a generation ago.

• Health care expenditures are nearly 50% greater for workers who report high levels of stress.

• An estimated 1 million workers are absent every day due to stress.

• This unanticipated absenteeism is estimated to cost American companies $602.00 per worker per year.

There are several kinds of job-related stressors that are actually associated with increased absenteeism, tardiness, and intentions by workers to quit their jobs—all of which have a negative effect on the bottom line.

The Design of Tasks. Heavy workload, infrequent rest breaks, long work hours and shiftwork; hectic and routine tasks that have little inherent meaning, do not utilize workers’ skills, and provide little sense of control.

Management Style. Lack of participation by workers in decision-making, poor communication in the organization, lack of family-friendly policies.

Interpersonal Relationships. Poor social environment and lack of support or help from coworkers and supervisors.

Work Roles. Conflicting or uncertain job expectations, too much responsibility, too many “hats to wear.”

Career Concerns. Job insecurity and lack of opportunity for growth, advancement, or promotion; rapid changes for which workers are unprepared.

Environmental Conditions. Unpleasant or dangerous physical conditions such as crowding, noise, air pollution, or ergonomic problems.

So, What Can You Do?

Recent studies of “healthy” organizations suggest that policies benefiting worker health also directly benefit the bottom line. NIOSH research has identified organizational characteristics associated with both healthy, low-stress work and high levels of productivity. These characteristics include:

• Recognition of employees for good work performance

• Opportunities for career development

• An organizational culture that values the individual worker

• Management actions that are consistent with organizational values

Start De-stressing Your Team Today!

Although it is not possible to give a universal prescription for preventing stress at work, it is possible to offer small steps you can take to alleviate stress in your organization.

Make Work Fun

Remember, employees spend an average of 40-50 hours a week at work—almost 1/2 of their waking hours! Give them a well-deserved break—you can even designate a short weekly “recess” where they are encouraged to relax, socialize and play! Hand out stress toys, provide snacks and they’ll get back to their desks energized and relaxed!

Recognize Your Team

Make one day a week “Acknowledgement Day”! Hand out cards to your people and have them write a short note to someone they think has done something well that week. Write your own cards identifying something positive about everyone. After they are given out, present a special award to the outstanding performer of the week. Make this a regular event and make sure everyone is made to feel important in your organization.

Get Everyone Involved

There are a lot of decisions that are made every day in an organization—getting your team involved in some of these decisions allows them to feel part of the process. It might be as simple as having a weekly status meeting with your team where everyone has the opportunity to talk about their workload, share concerns and issues, and all be involved in the problem-solving process.

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Reinforce Your Corporate Values

The values of your organization help drive your company to success. That is why it is imperative that you define what’s important to your organization, and then communicate those values at every opportunity.

Jack Miller, the founder of Quill Corporation and the current owner of Successories, has written a book about organizational values called Build a Winning Corporate Culture. In it, he talks about Quill and how their company values lead them to success.

“We never missed an opportunity to reinforce our values. At company events, during training sessions, at meetings, in one-on-one conversations as well as in our bonus programs and our yearly profit-sharing meetings…everywhere possible, we acted on and/or talked about one or more of our values.

Verbalizing your mission and values alone may work when you are a small firm, where you see and talk to everyone in the company every day. But even then, it isn’t the best way to create a culture. Being forced to carefully think through your mission and values by having to write them out and share them with others is a far better way to ‘institutionalize’ those ideas so that as the company grows, every new employee knows them, and every current employee is reminded of them.

But just writing them out and giving a copy to every employee isn’t enough either. All too often, the booklet ends up in a desk drawer, never to be looked at again. You must constantly communicate and reinforce the mission and values. Your actions and those of other employees are by far the strongest communicator and reinforcer.

In addition, your entire company should overflow with reminders…signs on the walls, messages on products employees use every day, the goals set for bonuses, the way your reward system works, and, very importantly, the way in which you publicly acknowledge those who have done an outstanding job.

A great culture, solidly reinforced day in and day out, until it becomes an integral part of everyone’s minds and how everyone thinks, can work wonders. It can mold the organization into an almost invincible powerhouse that can drive you on to great success, not to mention the great pride and satisfaction it generates in everyone involved.”

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When You Think About Recognition, What Comes to Mind?

When you think about recognition, what comes to mind? A pat on the back and a handshake? Maybe recognition is a gift card or a commemorative watch. It could be all of these things, but when most people think recognition, they think awards.

Awards are a wonderful symbol of an employee’s accomplishments. And it helps employees stay motivated and energized about their job. A recent survey conducted by a Connecticut-based recruitment firm shows that employees who feel recognized and valued at their job are more satisfied and more productive.

The end of the year is a wonderful opportunity to think about starting the new year off right with a recognition program for your organization. But how do you begin? Here are a couple of key questions to ask when planning your program:

1. What is your goal? Whether you need to update your old recognition program or begin a brand new one, establishing goals can help focus your efforts.

Common goals include:

  • increasing sales
  • building morale
  • improving customer service
  • encouraging safety
  • fostering teamwork

2. What is your budget? While a recognition program doesn’t have to break the bank, it’s important to budget enough money to recognize your people throughout the entire year. Make sure you calculate in all elements of your program: awards, cards, gifts, certificates, etc. It’s important to include several levels of accomplishments to easily recognize as many employees as possible.

3. Who is your audience? You may want to consider developing multiple programs for the different departments in your company or based on your goals. There are many ways to recognize your people including outstanding service, length of service, top sales, excellence, spirit and safety, just to name a few.

4. How will you communicate it? You can’t just build a program and expect your employees to understand it, you must advertise who is eligible, the criteria for winning, the rewards they’ll receive, and when the awards will be presented. Build excitement around your program and make it something employees feel they can achieve.

5. What is the reward? Here’s a chance to make your recognition special. Make sure you give them an award that clearly states their achievement. Give them a hand-written card that thanks them for their efforts. And decide now if you would like to give them a reward such as a gift card or small gift.

And don’t forget to continually monitor your program and get feedback from the people who matter most—your employees. A successful recognition program that sincerely reflects your appreciation can prove to be an invaluable tool in motivating your employees.

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Give Your Entire Office a Motivational Makeover!

Just as a fresh coat of paint can literally transform a room, a fresh infusion of inspiration throughout a workplace can transform attitudes and bring renewed energy to your organization. Don’t worry, you don’t have to knock down walls…or break the budget. There are plenty of small things you can do to give your workplace a motivational makeover that can have a real effect on productivity, positivity and bottom line results.

1. Let your walls do the talking. Most organizations have a mission statement. Very few organizations communicate it effectively. Use your walls as a way to educate your staff, clients, customers and vendors about the principles that are most important to your organization. State your core values clearly and beautifully with a variety of motivational framed prints or customize a framed print with your mission statement for maximum impact.

2. Color your world. White walls are not a bad thing, but think about how we react to colors. Shades of blues, greens, yellows and taupes have been proven to calm employees and help to create a serene environment.

3. Plant some peace. Add greenery to your office space and you can breath easy…literally. Plants naturally clean the air by converting the carbon dioxide we expel into fresh oxygen. Also, plants keep humidity regulated at an even level which reduces people’s susceptibility to illness. Get growing! Plants are an inexpensive way to bring the benefits of the outdoors in.

4. Coordinate your efforts. Once you’ve put important ideas on your walls, carry these key concepts through to your desks. Desktop prints, greeting cards and office supplies can help reinforce important principles while helping to coordinate and organize your office space.

5. Make bragging space. Don’t let certificates and awards gather dust inside someone’s desk. Give everyone space to show off their accomplishments. If your recipients have minimal display space available, consider providing a display frame with each certificate you present to help them make the most of their achievements. This is also a great time of year to start a new monthly recognition program – get everyone involved.

6. Organize the troops. Start fresh with an organized desk. Make it easy by setting aside several hours for everyone in the organization to go through those piles of papers, pack away old files and take time to throw out unnecessary clutter. Make sure you have boxes, markers, new file folders, binders and trash cans close at hand.

7. Just say “Thanks!” It seems so simple, but a handwritten card from you will make every member of your team feel great. Thank them for their hard work and share the sincere praise you may have been too busy to pass along. Absolutely free to you, these words of encouragement can be priceless to the recipient and are the real key to any successful workplace makeover.

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