Why should employers concern themselves with employee stress? There are several reasons, but let’s highlight two.
Firstly, a self-serving reason: According to a large-scale study cited in the New York Times, relaxed, stress-free employees are more productive than their high-strung counterparts. And secondly, perhaps more importantly: you owe it to your workforce to create a better quality of life, at least during work hours. Prioritizing mental health can improve company culture (and, in turn, your ability to attract talent) and overall morale.
Okay, so you understand the importance of cultivating a stress-reduced environment – but how do you achieve that goal? Every workplace is different, and every team is unique, but here are a few proven that you, as an employer, can manage stress.
Create a Break Culture
Often, it doesn’t matter whether employees have mandated breaks or not. If there’s a culture of “working through breaks,” then breaks become a source of stress – the opposite of their intended effect.
If they aren’t directly responsible for this “work through breaks” culture, employers too often turn a blind eye to it. ‘After all,’ some managers think, ‘more work hours mean more productivity, right?’
Wrong. Several studies show that routine downtime contributes to higher productivity levels. Further, regular breaks cultivate a holistic sense of work-life balance at a workplace, which boosts morale.
Everyone’s familiar with the conventional “coffee station” at work. It’s a central hub of communal activity, inter-office mingling and general relaxation. But what if you were to take that concept a step further?
Instead of solely offering coffee, offer “adaptogenic drinks” as well. Adaptogens are natural botanicals that have been shown to mitigate anxiety and strengthen the body’s stress response. They include mushroom superfood blends like chaga, lion’s mane and reishi, as well as other traditional herbs like ashwagandha and Rhodiola. Offering these calming beverages can be an easy, powerful way to promote a more balanced workplace culture.
There is a mountain of research to show that physical exercise mitigates stress. However, time and costs remain a barrier to entry for many employees who want to include routine exercise in their schedules.
In Japan, workplaces often implement mid-day exercise regimens for the entire staff. That might not fly here in North America, but you can at least subsidize employees’ extra-office fitness. Partner with a local gym to offer reduced rates for memberships and/or designate certain work hours for physical exercise.
Prioritize Light and Air
Lastly, you can look to nature for inspiration. Natural light and fresh air are two of the best remedies for stress. If possible, design your office around these twin principles by situating workstations near operable windows. Weather permitting, you might also consider a workplace “field trip,” a screens-free team-building excursion where you work outdoors.
Don’t let stress take hold at your company. Cultivate a strong “break culture,” offer an adaptogen mushroom station next to your coffee station, subsidize physical fitness and prioritize natural light and fresh air whenever possible.