Around 80% of workers feel stress on the job, and in just about every type of job or position. Employees are reporting neck pain, eye pain and lower productivity due to stress. In fact, around one in five people has quit a job due to stress.
Making some simple changes around the office (including remote offices!) can have a large impact on workplace stress and, thus, productivity. Let’s review five simple but effective ways to promote a low-stress work environment.
What’s new in 2022?
A 2021 survey found that 76% of respondents with 500 or more employees said that improving employee mental and emotional health was a top priority. Employees are also beginning to view protection of their mental health as a non-negotiable aspect of their job, and, as a result of the pandemic, many employees found themselves with newfound power as people left their jobs in droves. This “power shift” has led to increased demands for conscientious and flexible management.
See also: Insurance Tips for the Remote Workforce
5 Tips to Create a Relaxed Work Environment
1. Use communication tools
We’ve all heard it before: Communication is one of the best tools to reduce stress. But with so many workers moving to remote work, communication has also become much more difficult. Gone are the days of popping into someone’s office to check in on a project’s status (or a coworker’s wellbeing!). Instead, leaders need to leverage communication technology.
How, you may ask? Communication software not only helps people stay on track and avoid wasting time emailing back and forth but can help set clear expectations and deadlines and avoid misunderstandings that cause stress. Using communication software can also help build virtual communities that would not otherwise be possible. Finally, communication software can help your team respond faster to potential issues, helping disrupt problems before they become even more stressful.
2. Take time for team building
A strong team is generally a more relaxed team. While team building has garnered a rather unfortunate reputation in recent years (how many more rounds of Two Truths and a Lie can most people take…?), team building actually is a crucial tool for reducing stress. Not only can team building help managers understand employees’ strengths and weaknesses better, but it can provide employees with an opportunity to blow off a little steam – in a healthy way.
Team building doesn’t have to feel like forced fun. Today, there are plenty of options for team building activities that are engaging and fun for everyone. For example, this escape room in Los Angeles advertises the benefits of playing an escape room for corporate team building, such as improved collaboration and the ability to think outside the box. More unusual team building activities that are both fun and effective include scavenger hunts or office trivia.
No matter your activity of choice, even five minutes of team building can reduce a little stress -- especially if the activity doesn’t feel like a waste of time. Consider incorporating real-world office training into your team building exercise. For example, if your team visits an escape room, consider incorporating the escape room into a larger training on time management.
See also: Bridging Health and Productivity at Work
3. Set boundaries
A healthy work-life balance is absolutely crucial to a stress-free work environment. If employees are overworked and using their downtime to think about work, stress is likely to build up quite quickly. Successful employers encourage employees to set healthy boundaries between life and work so that everyone can take a much-needed mental break every once in a while. Not only will a healthy work-life balance reduce stress, but it can also free up mental space for breakthroughs in the future; without breaks, it’s easy to get stuck in the same thought patterns.
Employers can lead by example and implement boundaries between home life and work in their own life. This will likely encourage their employees to follow suit!
4. Create healthy variety
Studies have shown that boredom is highly linked to stress; monotony at work can actually, counterintuitively, lead to high levels of stress. It’s important to create variety in your work day to avoid this!
The best way to avoid the boredom trap is to perform a variety of tasks throughout the day. Consider splitting your day into “focus chunks,” in which you pick one task to work on for a specific period. If you’re motivated to finish it, great. If not, and you’re starting to feel boredom creeping in, move to another task if you can. Not only is variety proven to reduce stress, but it’s also shown to increase satisfaction.
5. Allow autonomy
Finally, feeling control over your environment or situation is proven to reduce stress. After all, stress often occurs when things feel out of our control. As an employer, it’s important to allow your employees control over their workflow when possible. For example, consider assigning a goal or outcome and allowing your employees to figure out how best to achieve it. Autonomy may also extend to allowing employees to choose their hours and daily schedule or, as we’ve seen with the pandemic, their workspace.
Conclusion: Where Are We Headed?
As remote and in-person workers alike begin to demand working environments that are healthy and supportive, employers simply cannot afford to ignore stress in the workplace. And an increased employee focus on their own mental health is here to stay, bringing with it increased happiness and productivity. The businesses that work hard to promote a stress-free workplace will likely be the ones to succeed in the long run; after all, much of a company’s success depends on the security of its employees.