Stress is rising in America. More than 80 percent of workers feel stressed on the job. Now imagine what happens to people’s stress levels when a recession hits. Worries and anxiety creep in, leaving employees feeling insecure and unsure of the stability in their current position.
Not only are employee’s feeling emotionally unwell but physical health often suffers. Absenteeism due to illness hinders productivity, and during a recession, the effect is amplified.
To make it through an economic downturn, companies should look for ways to reduce stress as much as possible. And you don’t have to wait for tough times to make improvements. Start recession-proofing your business with these three stress-busters.
Improve the physical environment
Excessive noise, uncomfortable temperatures, and fluorescent lights all affect employee stress levels. If workers are distracted by loud chit-chat or their fingers are too cold to type or write, people can’t focus and stress sets in.
Assuming you work out of a typical office environment, you can make changes without having to undergo an expensive remodel.
Here are simple, inexpensive ways to create an environment conducive to productivity:
- Have dedicated quiet spaces and social spaces.
- Implement focus hours so employees can have uninterrupted work time.
- Make the break room/space more inviting to encourage socializing there versus at desks.
- Consider purchasing desk lamps with soft light and turn off the fluorescents.
- Keep the temperature slightly warmer for increased productivity; bring in space heaters for particularly cold spots.
An improved physical environment can do wonders to reduce stress, but it’s not the only thing.
Better communication during recessions is not the only key to building trust and fostering better personal connections with employees; it also helps reduce employee stress levels. Layoffs often create more distrust in an organization, so being transparent during hard economic times is crucial to keeping stress to a minimum.
Start improving communications by being up front about the state of things. People fear the unknown, so the more you can share about the state of the things and what’s happening with the company, the less time people will spend worrying about what’s going to happen. Being transparent also means being clear about expectations and priorities. If people know what they’re supposed to do, then they can be more productive.
Better communication also requires listening. Take the time to hear from your employees. Seek a better understanding of their workload so tasks can be more evenly and fairly distributed if need be. When employees can come to management with their concerns, and when management takes those concerns to heart and makes improvements, the workplace becomes less stressful.
Support can take many shapes and during a recession, a little extra support can go a long way.
Start by acknowledging that times are tough. Sympathize with employees and don’t pretend it’s business as usual when it’s not. Recessions often mean budget cuts, yet workers are usually expected to maintain the same level of output. This is unsustainable and can lead to burnout, turnover, and absenteeism. So acknowledge the fact that yes, this is a difficult time, and then see what you can do to lighten the load.
Are there some tasks that can be set aside? Do people need an afternoon off after a particularly challenging day? Can you help prioritize their work? Is there anything you can do to pitch in?
People also want to feel appreciated, so amp up the thanks around the office. Acknowledge the small victories that often go unnoticed. Improved communication plus supportive management equals lower stress levels.
Workplace stressors are often unique to the organization and the individual. It might be helpful to survey your employees. Ask what you can do to improve the work environment. Even the small gestures like keeping it slightly warmer and or acknowledging challenges help employees feel more supported, focused, and less overwhelmed. And while these aren’t the only three things you can do to decrease work stress, they’ll certainly put you on the track to recession-proofing your business.