April Is Stress Awareness Month!

Although stress can take innumerable forms and have dozens, or even scores of contributing factors, when managers talk about stress what they’re ultimately talking about is the concept of work/life balance, and unfortunately, work can play a huge role in how stressed out the employees who work for you are.

The reason it is such a hot topic of conversation is that according to Gallup, fully sixty percent of workers feel “emotionally detached” while at work, and nearly 1 in 5 (19%) report feeling consistently miserable.  That matters because these are record setting numbers.  Collectively, the workforce has never been more miserable.

What Are The Most Common Work-Related Stressors?

Again, there are literally dozens of these, but time and again, surveys and statistics point to the following as being the most common work-related stressors:

  • Unclear performance expectations
  • Contradictory workplace demands
  • Lack of social supports
  • Work that’s boring, repetitive, not engaging and not challenging
  • Limited opportunities for growth and/or advancement in your company
  • Too much work
  • Too little pay
  • Insufficient autonomy in the workplace
  • Lack of recognition

Most managers have heard almost all of these before, so this isn’t new information, and the good news is that many of these have relatively easy fixes, which we’ll address next!

Addressing The Most Common Work-Related Stressors

Taking these in the same order we listed them above, we find that most of the workplace stressors do have relatively straightforward fixes.  For example:

  • The first two items, unclear performance expectations and contradictory demands both describe communications issues at one level or another.  It could be a case of “too many cooks in the kitchen” where you’ve got an employee getting his or her marching orders from two different people who want very different things, or it may be the case that you’ve simply not communicated clearly enough to get the result you want.  In either case, the fix lies with you.
  • Lack of social supports may or may not be something you can fix completely, but you can go a long way toward solving for that simply by encouraging your employees to work more closely together and by implementing an open door policy if you’re not using one already.  Sometimes, all it takes is an effort to humanize the workplace to make it notably less stressful.

Surprisingly, all of the remaining items on the list can be solved for in similar fashion as they are all components of the same basic pair of problems:  Lack of autonomy and lack of recognition.

Today’s workforce is very different than it was in decades past.  Today’s employees crave two things above all others:  First, greater autonomy, and second, greater recognition for their contributions.

Autonomy easily solves for the lack of challenging work as it gives your employees the freedom and flexibility to define their own work related tasks within the parameters you set.  Even better, although increased pay is still appreciated, increased autonomy is often considered to be a worthy substitute, so if you’re simply not in a position to pay your people more, this could provide you with a simple solution that offers the best of both worlds.

In a similar vein, lack of recognition is also easy to solve for, and generally involves establishing some type of Employee Recognition Program.

If you don’t have one yet, you’re in the minority, as the latest statistics indicate that some 80% of companies in the US now boast some type of recognition program.

The few managers who haven’t gotten onboard with that idea tend to cite lack of time and a desire to not be seen as playing favorites as their reasons for balking at it.

The reality is that if you allow your employees to manage it via a steering committee, you can neatly solve for both of those issues and reap all of the benefits that managers and business owners enjoy as a result of having a vibrant employee recognition program.

One side benefit of setting up an employee recognition program lies in the fact that our extensive product line includes all sorts of fun gift ideas that will help reduce the stress levels of all the employees you have in your employ. 

We’ve got everything from candy gift sets to scented candles to a full line of Jelly Belly stress relievers.  These come in a variety of shapes, sizes and styles but all are cute as buttons and guaranteed to bring a smile.  You can check them out here.

The bottom line is that workplace stress is a big, pervasive problem but solutions are available and the manager who puts his or her mind to de-stressing their workplace can accomplish quite a lot with a few simple, easy-to-implement solutions.