How to Reduce Workplace Stress for Employees

Posted by Des Sinkevich on April 1, 2022

Stress, at high levels, can be detrimental to physical and mental health. In the workplace, it can also have a negative impact on a company’s productivity and retention. Work-related stress leads to burnout, absenteeism, mistakes, and conflict, all of which affect the bottom-line, costing employers more than $300 billion a year. In order to address and alleviate stress for workers, it’s important to understand the real impact it has on a business and the underlying factors that cause it.

stressed woman with head in hands at her desk.

The impact of stress on workers and companies

While some stress is normal and even healthy, high levels of stress have long-term effects on both employees and their employers. For employees, work-related stress leads to

  • Higher rates of depression
  • More physical health issues
  • Relationship problems
  • Poor work performance

For employers, this translates to

  • Higher absenteeism
  • Higher healthcare costs
  • Increased turnover
  • Decreased productivity

Understanding the negative impact stress can have on your company and workers can allow you to build an effective strategy to combat it.

1. Higher employee absenteeism

Increased workplace stress can directly contribute to higher levels of absenteeism. Burnout, low morale, and physical and mental health issues from high-stress work situations or relationships lead to more call offs, which in turn can then increase stress for those workers who do come in for their shifts. Besides staffing issues, increased absenteeism among your employees can be costly. Absenteeism costs around $3,600 per year per hourly employee and $2,660 per year per each salaried employee.

2. Higher healthcare costs

Employer-sponsored health insurance is a benefit that attracts and retains talented workers, but it can be costly. For high stress workplaces, the expense is even greater. Researchers have found that stress in the workplace can cause additional healthcare expenditures that can cost anywhere from $125 to $190 billion dollars per year.

3. Increased employee turnover

An estimated 40% of all turnover is caused by workplace stress. High turnover can then further contribute to stress, leading to burnout, and, again, more turnover.

4. Decreased productivity

Over time, high levels of workplace stress can lead to decreased productivity. Workers experiencing anxiety and depression, two potential results of unhealthy stress, find it more difficult than others to function normally and often require more effort to be productive at work.

Leading causes of stress for employees and how to address them

Workplace stress can be caused by a number of factors, many of which an employer can control to some degree. Here are the leading causes of stress and how you can address them within your company.

1. Improve poor company leadership by creating a clear leadership structure

Your company’s leadership team sets the tone for the entire workforce. When employees don’t have a clear understanding of leadership roles and the company vision, there’s more room for stress to grow and affect morale.

A clear leadership structure allows all employees to know to whom they report, increasing the efficiency of workflow and lessens stressors because workers know who they should look to for support and guidance. Additionally, strong leadership teams are able to effectively convey a company’s mission and vision, motivating employees who understand how their work contributes to goals.

2. Address unhealthy workloads with proper staffing

A healthy work/life balance is essential to ensuring workers don’t have more stress at the workplace than they can handle. Long shifts, too few breaks, and long periods of work without days off can all contribute to stress and burnout. Being short-staffed can also lead to an unhealthy workload. When an employee must pick up the extra work previously done by an employee who is no longer there, they’re doing the job of two people and, more often than not, are unable to complete both effectively.

Ensuring your business is fully staffed can go a long way in relieving workplace stress. With enough people, no one should have to complete more work than their job requires, and a full staff allows for days off and regular breaks for each employee. Breaks, personal days, and the ability to have a strong work/life balance can alleviate stress for workers.

3. Allow greater flexibility and support from leadership

A huge contributor to unhealthy workplace stress is a lack of flexibility from employers. This could be a lack of flexible work schedules, little to no control over how they accomplish assigned tasks, or having to regularly complete high stress work with no change in routine.

More workplace flexibility doesn’t necessarily mean allowing employees to work whatever hours they want. For many businesses, that would be impossible to do and still maintain the same productivity and goals. However, you can be more flexible by allowing employees to change work hours when needed, encouraging them to take time off when they’re sick or need a mental health day, and letting them have a say in how they do their work.

4. Solve poor or incomplete training by providing high quality training and education programs

Employees who don’t receive proper training from day one can struggle to do their job well and understand what’s expected of them in their role. This can also put additional stress on those employees who are able to perform their tasks well because they need to pick up the slack from coworkers to do their jobs.

Providing training and continuing education opportunities for new and current employees can prepare workers to be successful on the job. It also offers the opportunity for growth, building an internal talent pipeline that can be beneficial when hiring for leadership positions.

Reduce employee stress through training with Penn Foster

While many leading causes of workplace stress can’t be addressed and solved overnight, implementing a training program can help you take a first step toward alleviating stress and burnout. By working with a trusted training partner like Penn Foster, you can offer new and current employees effective training programs that can prepare them for on-the-job success from day one. To learn more about our training programs and how they can work for your company, reach out to our training experts today.