Posted by Rishi Arora

There’s a lot of literature showing how workplace stress negatively impacts employee health, and unhealthy employees can greatly affect the company bottom line. Making matters even more difficult, the current economic crisis has forced companies to lean down, which has placed a larger burden on the existing workforce.
When employees are stressed, they are less engaged, less productive, and more likely to miss days at work due to stress-related illness.  Research suggests that stress weakens our immune system and increases inflammation which makes us more prone to illnesses ranging from the common cold to heart disease. In fact, some studies show that two specific types of workplace stress can take a toll on our cardiovascular system.

The first type of stress involves the physical strain of having to do more with less.  Taking on additional responsibilities and having to accomplish more work in less time is a common example. The second type of stress occurs when employees feel socially isolated and unacknowledged for their extra work.  Despite increased efforts, employees often feel their hard work goes unrecognized, and is unappreciated which leads to feelings of apathy, and as though they have little or no opportunity for career advancement.

Both types of stress cause a release of stress hormones; adrenaline and cortical, which if neglected can have deleterious affects on our health.  Recognizing the health dangers associated with workplace stress, here are 7 steps employers can take to help defuse stress in the workplace and create a healthier and happier work environment:

1. Frequently, acknowledge employees for their extra work, and make them aware of how valuable they are and how much they are appreciated. Failure to show appreciation for employee participation generates stress that endangers future efforts.
Solution: Daily, weekly, and monthly appreciation will help reduce stress and increase profits.
2. People want to know how they are doing, and whether they are meeting expectations. If you don't communicate your thoughts on their performance, they are stressed about how well they are doing.
Solution: Daily or weekly confirmation can help reduce stress significantly. Managers who wait until year end to explain job performance are about 51 weeks too late.
3. Encourage employees to take short time-outs. Rather than ruminate and stew over your workload, sometimes just taking short walk down the hallway can help us rejuvenate and refocus.
4. Meet regularly (weekly) as a group to discuss stressors in the workplace and come up with solutions to help mitigate the stress rather than sweep problems under the rug.  Even if the stressful problem is unavoidable, regular meetings will foster feelings of trust and improve team building.
5. Organize after work activities such as a walk or hike or a meeting at a healthy restaurant. Studies suggest that people tend to drink and smoke to mask the feelings of stress.
6. "Career and job ambiguity"
People want to know that their job is secure and know what is expected of them. Many employees also want to know about career progression and what they must do to advance.
Keep people informed of business situations, threats, and obstacles that must be overcome. They'll find out through the grape vine if you don't tell them. There is no such thing as a secret, so be right up front with everyone.

Rishi Arora