Stressed work isn’t the best work

More than 1 in 4 workers say the pandemic has caused a significant negative impact on their emotional health, including stress level, mental health, and work/life balance.

The blurred lines between work and home life, and the pressure to be always available — even outside traditional working hours — contributed to workers’ burnout with more than 75 percent of workers citing burnout as their biggest mental struggle.2 Learning about your employees’ full experience and their sources of stress is the empathetic thing to do, and studies show that stressed work isn’t the best work.

  • A staggering 91 percent of employees said that an unmanageable amount of stress negatively impacts their quality of work.3
  • 56 percent of employees report that anxiety impacts their work performance.4
  • 51 percent of workers report being “mentally checked out” at work.5
  • Businesses lose up to $300 billion yearly because of workplace stress.6
  • 34 percent of workers don’t feel safe to report their stress because they think it would be taken as an unwillingness to do work activity.7
  • 63 percent of workers are ready to quit their jobs due to stress.8

While understanding that burnout is on the rise, it’s not the only contributor to stress that can be seen in the workplace. Mind, Body, and Wallet: Workforce well-being in the pandemic era revealed that workers’ overall health — emotional, physical, and financial — has declined because of the pandemic.9 This means that there are two categories of stress for employers to consider:

  • Stress caused directly by work — burnout, toxic culture, lack of benefits, etc.
  • Stress caused by personal matters — caregiving, anxiety, family issues, personal finances, unhealthy habits, substance abuse, etc.

There’s a line between work life and personal life that managers need to respect. However, opening the channel of communication to empathize with your employees and support them during trying times will help to facilitate an encouraging environment. Don’t lose sight of the larger human experience each employee is navigating.

Look beyond deliverables

As an employer, you put a lot of effort and attention into learning the strengths of your workers but understanding their sources of stress is just as important. Only focusing on the wins/deliverables from your employees gives you a narrow perspective of their workplace experience. It’s like watching a movie and only seeing the joyous celebration after all the grueling battles beforehand. You’re left with an incomplete picture that’s a disservice to the storyline. You lose out on valuable context. The wins are taken for granted. The struggles that were overcome are overlooked.

When managers take the time to see the full picture of their employee’s experience, their perspective widens to see that each employee has their own journey with unique hardships.  

Recognize stress in the workplace

It may seem like there’s a lot of doom and gloom when it comes to workplace stress right now. To fix a workplace problem, it’s critical to be able to identify it. Here are some indicators of stress to keep in mind.

  • Changes in an employee’s normal behavior, such as being irritable, withdrawn, erratic, and displaying uncharacteristic behaviors
  • Lack of concentration and commitment
  • Changes in their appearance
  • Absenteeism

Developing plans to learn more about the stress of workers is top-of-mind for many employers. Here are a couple of starting points to learn more about the well-being of your workforce.

  1. Ask. Conducting surveys of your workforce and encouraging open conversion about the stress that’s affecting work performance opens the pathway to a healthy and understanding culture. Asking about stress related to their workload or upcoming tasks can help to identify and avoid pain points. If everything appears to be well in a work sense but an employee is still displaying indicators of stress, there may be personal matters, such as mental health or personal finances that are impacting their well-being.
  2. Teach. Training for managers to learn how to identify stress and burnout can help to stop workplace stress in its tracks before it becomes unmanageable. Fine-tuning EQ (emotional intelligence) across your organization will increase the ability to understand and manage emotional indicators that show that stress is present.
  3. Offer. Offering resources for employees to manage their stress, such as mental health resources or access to a financial planner. Steps can be taken to destigmatize providing awareness to managers when a personal problem is affecting performance, but professionals will be needed to help employees work through their hurdles.

A thoughtful and coordinated effort will help you recognize when stress is affecting your team, whether it be from workplace burnout or personal matters. Workers may not feel comfortable speaking about it at first, and it may take some time to reduce the stigma of speaking out about stress, but raising awareness and leading by example can make a difference towards improving the well-being of your workforce. 

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