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Published:May 29th, 2013 12:04 EST
Three Ways to Reduce Workplace Stress

Three Ways to Reduce Workplace Stress

By Jay Forte

Ready for some alarming statistics? 83% of American works say they feel stressed out by their jobs (this is up from 73% in 2011). The number 1 cause of stress is what is called job pressure " " the combination of co-worker and boss relationships, and work overload. 

This pressure is taking a toll on the health of the employee as the use of antidepressants has increased 400% over the past 30 years (just about the time when the industrial age ended and the today`s intellectual and service age started). The pressure also shows in the organization`s bottom line as the annual cost of stress-related healthcare and missed work is over $300 billion annually. 

Work doesn`t have to be stressful. The lower the stress, the greater the performance, engagement and ultimately loyalty. Helping employees minimize workplace stress is a sound strategic initiative. Here are three ways to start to decrease employee workplace stress: 

  1. Refocus on hiring for fit. One of the greatest reasons for employee stress is being hired into jobs that employees are not good at and not interested in doing. Most organizations use experience as the primary hiring qualification.  But because an employee has done the job before doesn`t mean that he is good at it and likes doing it. If not, job stress increases. Today`s service economy requires that management hire based on skills, experience AND behaviors " where behaviors are more important. Behaviors determine how intrinsically good and interested the employee is in the job. Reduce stress by hiring employees who fit the job " they feel capable, competent and confident. Commit to hiring based on talents and to hiring employees who fit the behavioral profile needed in each job.
  2. Share information. If you really want to stress out your employees, keep them in the dark. Sharing information, even difficult or challenging information, is important to help employees deal with what is going on in their workplace. Information that is openly and honestly presented allows employees to stay connected to fact. This way, they don`t invent stories or add fictitious details because they do not know what is true. Share openly and honestly, and expect the sharing to be returned.
  3. Expand your listening. Sharing information is one thing, but tuning in to what employees think, feel and say is critical to helping them feel heard, respected and valued. Remember back to Maslow`s Hierarchy of Needs. When the lower aspects of Needs Hierarchy are unaddressed, employees are too distracted to concentrate on performance. So if employees have managers who are available and present " who actively listen and share information " employees feel heard, have information and the stress level is reduced. 

The statistics are real " employees are stressed. What is it you can do to help reduce the stress in your workplace knowing that the stress is both costing you money and challenging the health of your employees? 

This is a great topic to bring up to your senior team, particularly your strategic HR partners, to have a meaningful discussion and to build a stress-management strategy. Include in your strategy a more sound talent and fit hiring/role alignment approach, expanded information sharing and coaching your managers into becoming better listeners and communicators. 

Jay Forte, an author, speaker and certified workplace and life coach, works with organizations to train them how to attract, hire and retain A-level talent. His focus on aligning employees for fit encourages employee engagement, performance and loyalty. Tools, programs and resources at www.FireUpYourEmployees.com.