It is not a secret that work has the potential to seriously stress employees out. The stress that employees face has potentially harmful effects on their health, personal lives, and overall work performance. Regardless of the job, whether it be a low-paying job, or a high-paying job, stress exists at all levels. This information probably seems a little contradictory as the workplace has evolved substantially in the past ten to 20-years and has become much more efficient and automated as technology has changed the way we work on a daily basis. Not only has technology changed the workplace, but legislation has introduced more employee-friendly laws than ever before. However, the question still remains: Why are employees becoming more and more stressed out every day if the work should be easier?
According to Forbes.com, “The average business professional has 30 to 100 projects on their plate. Modern workers are interrupted seven-times an hour and distracted up to 2.1-hours a day. And four out of ten people working at large companies are experiencing a major corporate restructuring, and therefore facing uncertainly about their futures. This may be why more than 40% of adults say they lie awake at night plagued by the stressful events of the day.” From these statements alone, one will find around four different sources of workplace stress to include: unrealistic work expectations, workplace distractions, and organizations restructuring, which in turn induces lack of sleep due to the uncertainty of continued employment with an employer.
The most common source of workplace stress stems from the issue of unrealistic expectations when organizations task employees with heavy workloads and with potential work that may be outside of their realm of knowledge, skills, and abilities. When an employee is tasked with too many duties that he or she may not be qualified for, this may be indicative of an organization not having enough employees, employees not having enough training, or the lack of management level employees available to support their direct reports. All of these workplace challenges may lead employees to become frustrated or feeling like there are not enough hours in the day to get their work done within the required timeframes.
Another source of workplace stress are interruptions. Interruptions happen so often during the work day that employees may feel like they are accomplishing nothing. Examples of interruptions include: colleagues walking into another employee’s office unexpectedly, unexpected emails that employees have to act upon immediately, urgent priorities that trump normal work tasks, and equipment breakdowns. It is important to have a workplace that fosters communication between employees, however it is ultimately up to the employees themselves to decide what their reaction is when they are interrupted. Employees have a few choices: they either have the choice to accept the interruption and start working as soon as the interruption is over, they have the choice to kindly deny the interruption and explain that they are busy, or they have the choice to create a plan to resolve the interruption at a later time that works best for them and whoever or whatever is interrupting them. With this preset list of choices, the employee has to make will help them prioritize their time when an interruption occurs and will result in the employee having more time to complete their tasks.
Not surprisingly, employees may also be stressed due to what they feel is a low income. It is important for organizations to analyze current pay practices in comparison with market trends on a regular basis. If an employee feels that their wage is below what is average for their specific job, it may be wise to find some additional sources of wage data. The organization may find that they are paying the employee appropriately according to their pay philosophy, or they may find that there is a pay inequity and should adjust their pay accordingly. In certain circumstances, it may be important to complete total compensation statements. This document allows employees to visually see all of their benefits to include cash compensation and the costs that are associated with their benefits. For instance, if an organization chooses to pay for 75% of an employee’s health insurance premiums, the cost of that portion of the employee’s premium should be reflected on the total compensation statement. Some employees don’t see benefits as a monetary benefit. However, many would be surprised to see that with benefits included in addition to cash compensation, that they may be receiving much more than they originally thought. It is important for employers to communicate this to their employees through total compensation statements as employees may then realize that their income is not as low as they had originally thought.
Organizations must create a plan to help employees cope with workplace stress as soon as they find out that an employee is stressed. Communication is key to either minimizing workplace stress or preventing it all together. Organizations that commit to an open-door policy and encourage their employees to come forward with their concerns and challenges within the workplace usually have lower stress levels throughout the entire organization.
Lastly, when employees feel like they are getting stressed and overwhelmed, the feeling may sometimes override their ability to work at all. Some organizations have been implementing spaces throughout their offices where employees are able to unwind away from their work and their desks to experience a change of pace, reenergize, and even meditate. If possible, employers should provide comfortable seating and paint the walls a neutral color, as a pleasant environment is perfect for boosting happiness and morale.
If organizations follow any or all of these steps to help ease workplace stress, their employees will feel empowered and ultimately less stressed. When employees are given choices that lead to their jobs being less stressful, the workplace environment may be less stressful. Organizations have an obligation to ensure that their employees work in a stress-free environment as it will benefit them in the long run leading to higher productivity due to a higher morale among employees.
For more information on this topic, please contact us at www.NewFocusHR.com.
Written by: Patrick McKenna, SHRM-CP