10 Great Techniques to Reduce Stress in the Workplace
Workplace stress is a big problem throughout the United States. In fact, the use of antidepressants in the U.S. has risen 400% since 1994, with about 1 in 10 people on some kind of relaxant or mood-elevating drug.
Not only does all this stress make for a less-than-pleasant experience for your workforce, but it also takes a major toll on your budget, the health of your staff, and employee turnover rate. According to Fairleigh Dickenson University, 75% of people report being stressed on the job—at a cost to employers of $200 billion annually, when sick days, lowered productivity and mistakes, and healthcare costs are factored in.
But don’t worry! There are many ways to reduce stress at work. Here are ten simple and effective techniques that you can implement immediately to ensure that both you and your employees are calm, happy, and productive!
1. Delegate Tasks
Many hard-working employees or managers find it difficult to ask for help, fearing that they may look incompetent or lazy. But according to Harvard Business Review, time management (including the ability to efficiently and effectively delegate tasks) is one of the largest concerns facing businesses today. One survey shows that almost half of businesses have concerns about the way employees delegate, and yet very few—only 28%—actually offer any training for managers and employees. Keep in mind that no small business owner ever achieved success on their own; they all had help.
Make sure that you and your employees know how to delegate properly and not only will you be more productive, but everyone will be less stressed.
2. Automate Repetitive Tasks
One of the biggest hurdles of delegation is when you don’t have enough staff to delegate tasks to. Your employees may not have time to take on extra work, and you may not have the budget to hire additional employees. If that’s the case, try automating things like payroll, various accounting tasks, scheduling, and task management.
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3. Exercise Regularly
Exercise is one of the best ways to fight back against stress, not just at work, but at home, too. According to Mayo Clinic, a good workout helps in three ways:
- Exercise increases endorphin production, which are the hormones that naturally make you feel better.
- Physical activity boosts self-confidence, helps you to relax, and eases symptoms of anxiety and depression. Plus, you’ll sleep better, too!
- A good workout can double as meditation. By focusing on your body, even for a little while, you’ll start to forget about the day’s stressors.
Make sure you have plenty of time each day to exercise, even if it’s as simple as walking to work or on your lunch break, taking the stairs, or performing stretches. Encourage your employees to stay active by offering group discounts on local gyms or supplying a quiet room for yoga.
4. Meditate the Stress Away
Mindful meditation is scientifically proven to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. In fact, one study shows that a four-day meditation routine lowers cortisol levels, called “the stress hormone,” by nearly 20%. To reduce stress among your employees, promote meditation in the workplace by providing your employees a comfortable, quiet room to relax and turn their focus inward for a few minutes each day.
5. Treat Yourself to a Massage
Massage therapy is another effective way to reduce stress levels. Research shows that massages reduce cortisol, the hormone that regulates the immune system and the body’s response to stress, by an average of 31%. Cortisol also boosts the feel-good hormones dopamine and serotonin by 31% and 28% respectively.
6. Take Plenty of Breaks
The CDC warns us that infrequent breaks are one of the top causes of stress in the workplace. Even for those who don’t consider themselves workaholics, it can be difficult to stop for an hour-long lunch break or even several, shorter rests.
Encourage your employees to put their work on hold and take regular breaks throughout the day. It might seem counter-intuitive to spend more time taking breaks and less time doing the task at hand, but even a five-minute rest once an hour increases overall productivity by reducing stress, and therefore absenteeism, accidents, and errors.
7. Reduce Interruptions
One of the biggest causes of stress is the worry that you’re not going to be able to accomplish the day’s work. With phones constantly ringing, emails that need to be checked, and people stopping by your desk to chat, interruptions are a major barrier to getting the job done. Just how bad is this problem? Research by Gloria Mark from the University of California, Irvine shows that on average, it takes people 23 minutes and 15 seconds to resume an interrupted task. Increase productivity and reduce stress by scheduling specific times to check your email or return phone calls and ask your employees to do the same.
8. Posture Equals Power
Sitting up straight isn’t just good for your spine—it’s good for your mood, too. An experiment by MIT researcher Andy Yap found that people feel more powerful and therefore less stressed when they maintain good posture at their desks. Hunching over your desk, craning your neck or sitting in a chair that is too short makes people feel confined, constricted, and anxious.
Ensure that all workers have comfortable, ergonomic workstations, which may include properly elevated computer monitors, lumbar-supported chairs, or standing desks.
9. Declutter to Destress
Perhaps your desk is filled with family photos and a dozen of your favorite desk toys. Or maybe there is defunct office equipment gathering dust in the corner and piles of file folders everywhere you look. Whatever the case may be, clutter is a significant source of stress, whether it’s the things you want (like those 10 photos of your pets and children) or the things you don’t (like that stack of paperwork).
Psychology Today reports that this is because clutter overloads your mind with stimuli, making it much more difficult to focus on the job at hand. So populate the office with recycling bins, shredders, and an efficient filing system, and remind your staff to implement weekly or daily blocks of time to clear and organize their desk.
10. Realize That Stress Isn’t Always Bad
One interesting study by Yale University researchers found that when people have a positive attitude about stress, they tend to perform better. In this study, people were told to watch a short presentation about the benefits of stress. Afterwards, the participants reported that they felt better and were more productive even though their stress levels remained the same. Rather than thinking of stress only as a limiting factor, embrace a certain amount of stress (not to be confused with workaholism!) and you’ll see immediate improvements, not only in your performance, but in your happiness, too.
Stress is tough to beat, but with these simple and quite pleasurable techniques, you can turn your hectic office into a place of peaceful productivity.