Work and stress go hand in hand -- that's something people accept and consider to be the norm. In fact, stress can actually be helpful for certain things in life, like motivation, resilience and memory.
But this “good stress,” known as eustress, should be part of a balancing act.
When harmful stress becomes chronic and people feel that they've lost control of a situation, that scenario negatively affects their health and well-being. And it's possible to cross that line in the workplace. Unfortunately, however, when companies attempt to address workplace stress, they may be misguided.
An October 2015 report from Mental Health America found that 83 percent of 2,000 employees surveyed thought that their respective companies were overly focused on trivial activities when it came to addressing workplace wellness.
Instead, employers can use the employee experience to recognize how to change procedures to make long-lasting solutions and create a healthier environment.
Here are some common causes of workplace stress and how to address them:
Employees like to know what they’re doing, when tasks are due and whom to report to. Unfortunately, unclear information is a frequent issue in today’s office. An October 2015 survey from Wrike revealed that 44 percent of the 1,464 employees surveyed viewed the responsibilities they were being assigned as unclear-- something they considered a significant stressor at work.
Solution: transparency. The solution is simple: Communicate in a clear manner. Adopt transparency as a company value and stick to it. When employees are second-guessing their role in an organization’s mission, someone is failing. Constant questioning is a waste of time and creates undue stress.
Related: Your Workplace Stress Is Killing You
Communicate expectations clearly, and write down specific goals for every team and employee. When they know what success looks like and can visualize their path to it, they will feel more motivated and engaged to work toward it. Create workflow processes that are simple and streamlined to avoid the mess of a complex work environment.
Complexities and overload
A February 2015 Bersin by Deloitte report found that more than 70 percent of the 3,300 organizations surveyed rated the need to simplify work as an important problem. Some 74 percent of respondents rated their work environment as complex or highly complex.
Employees shouldn’t be required to navigate mazes of convoluted processes and overly complicated procedures. They shouldn’t be overwhelmed by excessive steps or sidetracked by too much work on their plate.
Solution: task-management strategy. Establish roles for each employee so they know where their priorities lie, and track their progress continuously to ensure they are being productive. When productivity lags, that scenario may indicate burnout and overwork.
Technology can help companies manage multiple projects and tasks of various sizes and scope, while providing real-time reports and tracking in a simple, intuitive visual dashboard. This real-time feedback facilitates ongoing communication between all organizational levels.
Encourage employees to speak up when they feel that expectations are unrealistic or they feel overwhelmed. This proactive approach will reduce workplace stress and add a level of comfort to the business -- people will feel that they have a voice and are being heard.
Poor work-life balance
Technology allows everybody to stay connected, but some employees take technology too far. In fact, those who remain logged into work emails and other forms of business correspondence at home are at risk of letting workplace stress invade their personal lives.
This constant electronic correspondence can be burdensome and even detrimental to one’s health. An April 2015 study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology coined the term “telepressure” to describe the urge to quickly respond to all kinds of messaging, including emails. Of the 303 participants, those who obsessed over responding reported poorer quality of sleep and absences from work due to health problems.
Solution: flexibility. This type of burnout is partly in the hands of employees, but organizations can play a part and make a positive impact. Don’t allow employees to take work home on a regular basis. Discourage them from constantly connecting by establishing tech curfews and setting clear expectations about response times to help manage workloads. Prevent telepressure by helping employees set specific moments in the day to check correspondence, instead of constantly addressing each notification instantly.
Additionally, provide flexible scheduling, like permitting flextime or telecommuting. This allows employees the chance to get work done on time, but according to their personal schedule. They won’t miss out on things like family events or stop engaging in personal hobbies, and they can still be productive.
Stress rears its ugly head in various ways in the office. While a little bit of it is indeed necessary, an excess can kill productivity and drain employees of engagement and motivation. Addressing these common issues results in a happier employee and a more effective operation.