Reality is: Most workers are suffering from some level of job-related stress.
The causes are many – fear of making mistakes, piles of projects, tight deadlines, interpersonal issues and concerns about job security, just to name a few. That’s not even getting into external issues – like child care issues or hosting the in-laws for a weekend – that become sources of workplace stress.
And the effects of workplace stress are many. From absenteeism and turnover to slipping productivity and soaring health care costs, the effects of stress cost American businesses an estimated $300 billion annually.
Employees shouldn’t dread going to work every day. There’s plenty that HR, business leaders, managers and the employees themselves can do to better manage workplace stress.
In honor of Stress Awareness Month, we complied 30 ways to de-stress your workplace this April. We’ll break down our list into 15 things individual employees can do, and 15 things your entire office can do.
15 Ways Employees Can Cope with Work-Related Stress
- Sleep Better
One of the key ways stress affects our health is through sleep loss.. Use wearables, or a sleep calculator, to establish a nightly routine so you get to sleep at a decent hour and feel energized in the morning.
- Read a Book
You know you want to. So stop making excuses and do it.
Close your eyes, breathe deeply and clear your mind for two minutes. Do this once in the morning, once during the midday and once in the evening, and you’ll find the exercise of giving your mind a break will help you to relax, refocus and recharge.
- Ban “Busy”
You’ve heard of “Ban Bossy,” but have you heard Dare to Engage CEO Anese Cavanaugh’s great talk on banning “busy” from your vocabulary? “Some of the people I come in contact with, they think they’re doing a good job because they’re busy,” says Cavanaugh. “I want to clear this up right now: Being busy does not make you more important, it does not make you more productive, it does not make you more valuable. It just makes you tired.” When you’re present in the moment, says Cavanaugh, you won’t feel so busy.
- Indulge (a little) in Dark Chocolate
Reward yourself – and your sweet tooth – with these delicious (and sneaky healthy) Chocolate Almond Candies.
- Take a Break
It’s important to get away from your desk. Try and schedule a lunch outside the office at least once a week. If you can’t manage that, force yourself to take short breaks throughout the day and avoid dining al desko whenever possible.
- Hire Help
Stop trying to be everywhere at once. There’s no shame in hiring a little help to cross things off your to-do list. Come to think of it, here are 101 Odd Jobs You Can Hire Someone Else to Do.
- Take a Walk
Spring has sprung, so take advantage of the better weather to take a short walk outside to improve your mood. Fresh air, movement and sunshine are nature’s cure for stress.
- Make a Detox Drink
You don’t have to go all-out with a juice cleanse or anything. Just brew a pot of strong green tea, add a few lemon slices and drink it often for an easy way to cleanse your body.
- Get Some Exercise
Sitting at your desk all day can cause stress on your body – not to mention the well documented health detriments of sitting for prolonged periods of time. Make it a point to exercise this month. If sweating out your stress at the gym isn’t your style, try these desk exercises to loosen your muscles.
- Be Selfish
Take a little time for yourself. There’s no shame in that. Pamper yourself a little bit by trying a new restaurant or taking a spa day.
- Let It Go
Learning to let go – whether “it” is work, family issues, or the last item on your to-do list – is enormously important to managing stress. Just maybe don’t belt it out like Elsa.
- Be ‘SMART’ About Your To-Do Lists
If you’re going to make a to-do list, make sure your tasks are specific, measurable, attainable, rewarding and time-limited. This will help you prioritize what’s important and stop stressing about the rest.
- Escape for a Day
Take one weekend day this month – one single 24-hour period – and commit to doing no work whatsoever. You don’t even have to leave town – the important thing is to take a 24-hour reprieve to rest up and recharge.
- Watch Puppy Videos
You’re probably doing it anyway. Now you don’t have to feel guilty about it.
Find more stress management tips.
15 Ways You Can Help Employees Manage Workplace Stress
- Try Office Yoga
Bring in a local yoga instructor to lead class once a week this month. In addition to a great workday break, the instructor can teach your employees some simple stretches to help do yoga at their desks.
- Test Nap Rooms
Sleeping on the job is no longer just a sign of laziness. Several progressive employers have installed nap rooms in their offices as a way to combat burnout and encourage employees to take a break. Set up a couple of hammocks or recliners during Stress Awareness Month.
- Host a Happy Hour
Happy hours are a simple, and popular, way to unwind with co-workers at the end of a long and stressful workday – or work week. Make sure to include snacks and non-alcoholic beverages in the spread so those employees who don’t drink feel welcome as well.
- Get a Late Start
For many employees, workday stress starts with the morning commute. Announce that you’ll be starting work at 10 a.m. next Friday. And then surprise employees with egg sandwiches for an added bonus.
- Dedicate a Day of Service
Pick a day, and announce at the beginning of the month that everyone will be able to take that day off to volunteer at a local nonprofit. Giving back is a great way to relieve stress – but make sure to give enough advance notice that the day off isn’t itself a stressor.
- Cater a Healthy Lunch
Consider providing a salad bar for lunch one day each week during Stress Awareness Month. Studies have shown eating Omega-3s – like salmon, walnuts, flax and tofu – can relieve stress. Plus, your employees will love the catered meal!
- Commit to a Night of No Email
Make a pledge to not send after-hours email for one day this month. Your employees will appreciate having a night in which they don’t have to be “on-call” and looking forward to a morning when their inbox won’t be overflowing.
- Bring Spa Treatments to the Office
Bring in an on-site manicurists or massage therapist and let employees sign up to have their nails done or receive a short massage. These treatments are surefire stress relievers, and will also save your employees some time outside of the office.
- Install “Meeting-Free Mondays”
Want to know what really stresses out employees? When they’re so booked up that they barely have time during the workday to, you know, work. Give your employees some of their time back by installing “Meeting-Free Mondays” this month. If you hate it, go back to the old way in May.
- Cultivate a Culture of Kindness
Encourage your workforce to be generous with compliments throughout Stress Awareness Month, to be willing to say something nice when someone truly deserves it. In doing so, you’ll find a positive energy carrying throughout the workplace.
Celebrate a success this month with ice cream sundaes. Your employees will appreciate the sweet treat – not to mention the acknowledgment of their accomplishments.
- Lend a Hand
A major source of employee stress is the struggle with work-life balance. Leading employers have found that providing work-life benefits, such as dry-cleaning services and child care assistance, can cut down on outside stressors and improve employee performance and productivity.
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- Be Flexible
In that same vein, offering employees the flexibility to meet their out-of-work responsiblities, such as doctor's appointments or after-school pickups, during the workday goes a long way to reducing life-related stressors that bleed into the workplace. Use this month to test flexible work arrangements, like a work from home day, flexible hours and telecommuting, to see what works and what doesn't.
- Get Cooking
Food and friendly competition are a fantastic match. Organize a cook-off in which employees are invited to bring in their best dessert and everyone can vote for their favorite using a secret ballot. Reward the winner with a day off or gift certificate to a local restaurant. Everyone will enjoy the treats and friendly competition.
- Eliminate Micromanagement
Offer management training geared toward developing leaders and minimizing micromanagement. When managers get involved in too much of the nitty-gritty, it can be a major source of workplace stress. On the flip side, employee engagement is highest when employees feel like they’re in control of their work and their careers.
Don't forget to ceck out Care.com's Guide to Managing Stress