Stress in the workplace is, to some extent, unavoidable. Whether it stems from tight deadlines, heavy workloads, personality clashes or unexpected issues like a global pandemic, every worker has dealt with on-the-job stress.
But there also are on-the-job solutions to mitigating employee stress – and employers can take the lead.
The effects of stress aren’t just the more obvious things that happen in the moment, like a racing heartbeat or a feeling of anxiety or agitation. Persistent stress can have long-term health consequences, ranging from insomnia and fatigue to high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, or substance abuse.
In the working world, these conditions can lead to lost productivity, increased absenteeism, or high turnover rates.
“The workplace can be a minefield of stress-inducing events, and the pandemic has certainly added to our collective stress level,” said Karie Batzler, director of behavioral health at Capital BlueCross. “In the past year, we’ve seen so many unexpected changes in responsibilities or routines, including workers having to cope with the challenges of working remotely or, in the worst cases, having their work hours reduced or not being able to work at all.”
There are things employers can do to help employees find healthy ways to deal with stress. The American Institute of Stress suggests employers consider:
- Encouraging employees to take lunch breaks away from their desk or out of the office.
- Promoting the benefits of meditation, and maybe even provide a relaxation room where employees can go to practice it.
- Providing mindfulness training or stress reduction classes to employees.
- Work rules aimed at maintaining a healthy work/life balance, such as enforcing a “no work emails on weekends” rule.
- When the pandemic has passed, start up after-hours social activities like recreational sports or social gatherings.
Capital BlueCross recently began offering employers a free toolkit to help address mental wellness issues in the workplace. The toolkit, portions of which are available to employers regardless of whether they have Capital BlueCross coverage, offers guidance and resources to spur conversations about stress and other work-related mental wellness issues.
The toolkit is a timely resource, given 71 percent of adults reported at least one symptom of stress amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Harris Poll, and 57 percent of employees feel mental wellness is an issue that needs to be discussed openly in the workplace.
“Just talking about the things that cause stress and the impact stress is having on our lives can be a good first step to help deal with it,” Batzler said. “Start with a dialogue – listen, learn and go forward from there.”