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Seven Ways Leaders Can Reduce Workplace Stress
By Terri Dougherty

Stress makes a significant impact on worker well-being and the bottom line, and relief can come from the top.
Stress hampers an employee’s health and ability to be fully productive at work. In addition, it drains job satisfaction. Stressed out workers are likely to be looking elsewhere for employment.
To help ease the strain on workers, and make the workplace more efficient and stable, set strategies and policies that impact workers’ daily lives and set a positive tone for workplace culture. Your leaders can:
  1. Encourage communication. Long hours and a heavy workload are significant sources of employee stress. Managers should be open to employee suggestions and have a collaborative approach to resolving issues. This may help with workload management. Set expectations for manager-employee communication, such as regular one-on-one conversations with team members. This creates a personal connection and lays the groundwork for a supportive environment.
     
  2. Train managers to listen. When employees have concerns, managers should practice active listening by making eye contact, asking questions, and engaging in conversation to let employees know that they are being heard. Training in empathy can help managers be more understanding and do a better job of addressing issues.
     
  3. Don’t tolerate harassment. Harassing behavior should not be tolerated at any level of the organization and employee concerns should be promptly addressed. A toxic environment only adds to the other stressors already weighing on workers.
     
  4. Shine the spotlight on mental health. Involve leaders in promoting the mental health benefits offered by your company. Publicize your employee assistance program and local mental health services. Provide wellness information that offers tips on stress relief and healthy habits that support good mental health. You can also offer training that helps employees recognize the signs of chronic stress and provides coping skills.
     
  5. Allow flexibility. Offering the option for flexible work hours, when possible, gives workers some control over when they do their jobs. This not only relives stress, it shows respect and builds trust. In addition, it sets your workplace apart and can help you attract employees.
     
  6. Establish boundaries. Expecting employees to be available 24/7 saps energy and endangers good mental health. Establish a policy around after-hours emails or phone calls. If after-hours coverage is needed, rotate responsibilities. Also, encourage employees to recharge with paid time off that’s free of workplace distractions such as emails, messages, or phone calls.
     
  7. Offer remote work options. Much has been written about the tension between employees and management over remote work policies. Workers enjoy the time savings and flexibility of working remotely, while managers see advantages to having workers on-site and collaborating with each other. Consider how this plays out in your workplace, and the advantages and disadvantages of remote work as it relates to hiring, productivity, and employee retention. How do your workers and managers feel about remote work? If working remotely full time isn’t an option for your workers, perhaps a hybrid schedule, with employees in the office a few days a week and at home a few days a week, will ease the tension.
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