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De-Stressing the Office: Small Changes Employers Can Make That Have a Big Impact

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Achieving a work-life balance is difficult when demands pull at you left and right. Employees suffer from health challenges, sleep deprivation, financial considerations and relationship concerns. If you add to that a hectic work environment, it’s no wonder that 65 percent of Americans cite office-related pressures as the top workplace stressor, with a third experiencing chronic work-related stress.

Those stress levels adversely affect or agitate other health concerns, such as depression and heart disease. It pays more to help employees establish a serene and focused work environment to offset stress, rather than paying $300 billion annually due to the effects of stress — impacting productivity, disengagement, absenteeism and turnover.

Employers shouldn’t tell employees to leave their woes at home, nor should they pile on the negativity and tighten the reigns on already-stressed employees. That only leads to burnout. Employers must invest in employee health and spearhead a proactive initiative to reduce stress in the office. It only takes a few small changes.

Be an Example of a Level-Headed Leader

You know what they say in business — “lead by example.” Senior-level employees must consider the levels of stress they carry and focus on achieving balance in their lives as an example to employees and in order to function as better leaders.

Don’t let negative emotions, stress, anger or anxiety affect work culture or employee morale. That also means leaders must realize the importance of self-care. Release frustration and shake out legs that have been sitting all day by going for a run. Invite employees to a walking meeting to get everyone out of the office, and let nature spark employee creativity on a “Pitch Walk.” Take time out for family, health and personal needs, and pay the same forward to employees.

Include Nature and Natural Light in the Office

Are employees staring at four white walls inside of a gray cubicle? When motivational posters in the breakroom fail to energize employees, it’s time to change up the scenery to a more natural one. Studies show that exposure to nature is associated with positivity, reducing employee stress and boosting morale.

You can make the nature shift within a week. Open up the blinds on a sunny day. Choose ambient and natural lighting over blinding fluorescents. Place shade-friendly plants around the office, such as calla lilies.

Invest in Healthy Incentives

Do employees really use those gift cards for random restaurants and big box stores? Many employees would prefer to take advantage of a flexible hour to go to the gym in the morning or to a small workout area located in the office. They may feel motivated by fun additions to their workday, like food trucks, indoor massages and personal enrichment or professional development classes. 

What incentives will the office offer to help employees destress and refocus? Many leaders and entrepreneurs agree that having shorter 30-minute meetings in the mornings will motivate everyone to remain on target instead of dragging out the meeting and wasting valuable work and personal time. Since employees spend a majority of their day sitting, consider hosting a short and active meeting by having employees stand, at least while presenting ideas. This will also improve their speech-giving skills.

Reduce Noise Pollution

When employees wake up, they have to deal with renegade, fussy children or traffic jams. Then, they come into work only to battle a jammed, fussy copy machine.

Tapping. Clicking. Chattering. Clicking. Whirring. The little noises add up. Noise pollution comes from the office environment and from outside its walls.

Occupational noise can speed up hearing loss, and employers spend an estimated $242 million annually on workers’ compensation claims related to hearing loss. That’s where quieter operations come into play to reduce occupational noises and balance out the varieties of sound affecting productivity. Employers should also consider letting employees wear earbuds, play soft music or run a white noise machine.

Breakrooms are Community Centers

How do you think of your break room? Is it cheerful, or a dreary place where someone forgot to clean out the coffee pot at the end of the day?

Employers need to level the breakroom as a community center that brings employees together and allows them to regain a piece of mind — without feeling like they have to choose between reheating their old coffee or going to the bathroom on break. Get ready to reinvent the breakroom with these tips:

  • Load up the break room with free juice, tea and coffee. Employees like their coffee, complete with sugar, honey, cream and stirrers. You can also choose to support a local roaster.

  • Ditch the schoolroom-looking lunch tables and get something with more personality. Go for an industrial look, or buy used tables and chairs from a closing restaurant. These are conversation stations.

  • Add a free library with games and books. This area will encourage employees to read to destress or play a game with each other over the lunch break. That’s an instant icebreaker.

Reinvent Your Work Environment

Adding on to stress doesn’t help anyone overcome it. Employers can make small changes to the workplace environment and culture by leading by example, inviting nature in, investing in healthy incentives, reducing noise pollution and reinventing the breakroom.

These simple changes will boost employee morale, positivity and productivity. Employees will return to the office refreshed and ready to focus in their new work environment.

(Photo by Roman Bozhko on Unsplash)

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