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Manage Stress in the WorkplaceToday’s employees are more stressed out than ever. Chances are one or more of your workers are dealing with financial worries, caring for an elderly parent, raising children, going through a divorce, or struggling with a death or illness in the family. Stress can also be the result of conditions at work, including long hours, low pay, lack of benefits, or problems with coworkers.

According to one Canadian survey, employees who consider themselves good at coping with stress also say they’re more productive at work, and put more effort into doing a good job. Stress can also cause health problems that could wind up making an employee miss work and could even affect your group health insurance rates. Helping your employees manage their stress could be one of the best things you’ll ever do for your company. Here’s how.

1. Give Them the Best Benefits Package You Can

Employees who have good benefits are less stressed, because they worry less about what will happen if they get sick or if they have to stay home to take care of a sick child. They get the paid vacation time they need to relax and unwind for a couple of weeks every year. They’re able to stay home and recuperate when they get the flu or another illness. And they’re able to pay their medical bills and save for retirement.

Give your employees the best benefits you can. If you can allow perks like flexible scheduling or telecommuting, do so. Those employees who are singlehandedly raising children, caring for elderly or sick relatives, or simply stressed by a long commute will be grateful for the increased work/life balance, and they’ll be more productive, too.

Offer your employees access to an employee assistance program, so they can seek counseling and advice when they’re struggling with personal issues. These programs are most helpful when employees have multiple ways to contact the EAP; an employee may worry about being overheard talking on the phone about his or her personal problems, so give the option to reach out to a counselor privately via text or email.

2. Encourage Employees to Exercise

Along with plenty of sleep and a healthy diet, regular exercise is one of the best stress-busters there is. You may be surprised to learn that there are plenty of options for getting your employees to exercise more. You can start by offering them a free or discounted membership at a gym close to the office.

Arrange “walking meetings” so that employees can hold their vital discussions while strolling through a nearby park; the fresh air and sunshine can foster creativity. If that’s not an option, encourage a short, 15-minute exercise break to help employees de-stress during or after a long, arduous meeting. Bring in an aerobics or yoga teacher to hold a free class for employees during lunch. Pass out pedometers and give an award to the employee who takes the most steps each month. Establish a company sports team.

3. Empower Managers to Help Struggling Employees

Managers can probably tell when an employee’s personal problems are affecting his or her work performance, but that doesn’t mean they’re equipped with the tools to help. Ask EAP counselors to come in and train your managers with some techniques to help them reach out to employees who are struggling.

An employee who’s dealing with a difficult life issue will appreciate it when a manager can reach out in a compassionate and appropriate way. Managers will appreciate being able to help restore employees’ productivity when they’re in the midst of a difficult time.

4. Encourage Employee Relationships

People who have strong social support also tend to cope better with stress. Regular staff events, retreats, team building exercises, and even happy hours can help staff bond with one another and form real friendships. Encourage mentoring and collaboration. Reach out socially to employees who seem to be having a hard time — invite them to lunch, and encourage your other employees to do the same.

Give employees the opportunity to showcase their expertise through workshops or presentations. The bonds your employees form with one another will help them cope with stress at work and at home.

Stress in the Workplace5. Coach Employees Through Life Transitions

Many of the most stressful times in an employee’s life are transitional periods or milestones — getting married, having a child, experiencing a death in the family, buying a new home, or taking in an elderly parent can all cause stress that affects work performance.

Encourage employees to be open with you about their life changes. Some companies put together packets with information about how to manage stress and specific changes, which they send to employees who are going through a transitional period.

Just checking in with an employee who’s going through life changes can reassure him or her that you care. If you’re using an EAP, make sure to remind stressed employees that these services are available, and how to take advantage of them.

Employees feel stress for a variety of reasons, and whether the stress is work-related or not, it can affect work performance. Protect your company by helping your employees manage their stress, so you can grow and succeed as a team.

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