Since the start of COVID, workplace stress has been at an all time high with little indications that relief is in sight. According to a recent study, continuing concerns about health issues, a blurring of work-life boundaries, disengagement with the workplace for employees who work from home, staffing issues and greater on-the-job pressures, all contribute to job stress.
According to Gallup’s 2022 State of the Global Workplace Report, 44% of the world’s workers reported experiencing a lot of daily stress, about 8% higher than before the pandemic. Working women in the U.S. and Canada region were among the most stressed employees globally with 54% reporting a lot of daily stress.
The Costs of Job Stress
Why are these numbers concerning? Because over time, stress has a significant, negative impact on health and wellbeing.
Stress affects all systems of the body including the musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, nervous and reproductive systems. High blood pressure, heart attacks, obesity, chronic pain and many more conditions are directly linked to stress. Long-term stress also damages brain function, shrinking the brain and actually killing brain cells.
These stress-related issues in the workplace are estimated to cost American companies more than $300 billion a year in healthcare expenditures, absenteeism and poor performance.
So, it’s in every employer’s interest to mitigate workplace stress. This might seem challenging when faced with production requirements or deadlines that are out of your control. But with some creative thinking and changes to things you can control, you can make your workspace a less stressful environment.
- Consider workplace lighting. To function well, bodies need natural light to regulate serotonin levels. When serotonin levels are boosted by natural light, we sleep, learn and recall information better. Exposure to natural light also makes us more mentally alert, it improves our mood and supports good mental health. Therefore, laying out workspaces where employees are near windows or are somehow exposed to natural light, improves their all-around wellbeing and helps them cope better with the daily pressures they face. Even encouraging employees to get outside at some point during the day can make a difference.
- Bring the outdoors in. Plants brighten up an office, but their benefits go much further. Studies show that they help improve office air quality and limit noise pollution and can reduce tension, depression, anxiety and fatigue by 37 to 58%.
- Create a space to relax. More and more companies are designating specific work zones within the workplace into quiet areas, where personnel can focus on a specific task or into collaborative work zones, where employees can work in groups and talk. Consider complimenting work areas with spaces where employees can briefly get away from work pressures. A welcoming break room or a comfortable seating corner, allows employees to take a breather and destress during the busy day.
- Encourage exercise. Regular exercise is one of the best remedies for stress. Now, most offices can’t accommodate an exercise room, but rearranging the workspace so that frequently-used items are placed in a central location is a great way to encourage employees to get up from their desks and move around. It also gives employees opportunities to have social interactions with their co-workers, helping them to feel connected. Many workplaces also support and encourage exercise by offering discounts on gym memberships or sponsoring an employee fitness or walking group.
- Think about color. A simple thing like the color of a room can impact the way we feel about spending time in a space. Bright colors such as red, orange and yellow can boost creativity, but too much bright color can overwhelm the senses and contribute to feelings of stress. A soothing color palette of neutral creams, greys or muted pastel tones, can be calming.
Our employees are our most valuable asset. Supporting their wellbeing by decreasing their job stress, whenever possible, benefits both their health and your bottom line.