As an employer, do you put an unnecessary amount of stress on your employees? While stress is a common part of life and it can be beneficial to experience stress around certain situations, excess stress can be debilitating. When left unchecked, stress can cause physical and mental health issues, worsen emotional trauma, and cause people to quit their jobs to find less-intense work.
The workplace is a significant source of stress for many Americans. According to the American Institute of Stress, 46% of stressed employees are worried about their workloads, 28% are worried about people issues and coworker conflicts, and 20% feel like they can’t balance their work and personal lives.
As an owner, you and your management team can determine how stressed your employees are—either building up or breaking down their mental health. It’s time to focus on the mental health of your team members. Here’s how you can reduce unhealthy levels of stress while maintaining a productive work environment.
The digital workplace has made it possible to reach employees at all hours. Managers can call, text, and email employees, making requests or sending updates with new schedules and information. While employees used to clock out at 5 pm and walk away from a physical office building, most people still cart their digital office around on their smartphones.
To prevent burnout and protect employee labor rights, several European countries, including France and Luxembourg, have passed “right to disconnect” laws. These laws prohibit employees from emailing or calling employees late into the night, empowering workers to turn off their phones and spend time with friends and family. Even New York City has considered protecting employees’ off hours.
Consider creating your own “right to disconnect” creed in your organization. Let employees know that they should never feel pressured to answer messages late into the night or on weekends. Also, train your managers to stop contacting employees outside of work hours and pressuring them to work when they are off.
Another way to reduce stress and improve the mental health of your employees is to encourage them to take time off. Some people boast about how hardworking they are and brag about never needing a vacation. This mentality can stress out other workers who feel like they aren’t working hard enough because they are taking time off. If an employee is trying for a promotion (or doesn’t want to get laid off), they might skip vacation time to seem like hard workers.
As a manager, you need to separate vacation use from employee value. Encourage your team members to take vacation days and celebrate employees who use their time off.
“Two-thirds of employees say they hear very little about [using] vacation time from their companies,” Katie Denis, senior director of Project: Time Off, says. “That silence creates a vacuum, and we fill that vacuum with our anxieties and assumptions about what our bosses and colleagues could think about our vacation time.”
The fact is, 78% of managers believe time off increases employee focus and 81% say it alleviates burnout. Celebrate team members who take time off and encourage your employees to use their vacation days.
Employees need time away from work to destress, but it also helps if they have good mental health while they are in the office. It’s understandable for your staff to feel exhausted or overworked, especially if you have a seasonal business or just completed a major client project. However, extreme exhaustion should not be a normal state for your team.
Challenge your managers to regularly check in with employees and evaluate their workloads. Do your lower-level workers feel overwhelmed? Is this creating undue stress? You can also create employee workload surveys to understand which employees feel like they can take on more and which need help.
Overworking your employees may be beneficial in the short run, but your company will regret it in the long haul. Your workers will make more mistakes, are more likely to quit, and will set impossible standards—which means you risk disappointing clients when you can’t reach tight deadlines. Creating a balanced workload is just as important for you as for your employees’ mental health.
You can’t fix the mental health of your staff overnight. Good mental health practices need to be part of your company culture. Your managers need to stop calling team members late at night and to ensure their lower-level workers have reasonable workloads. As an owner, you need to set reasonable timelines for clients so your managers don’t need to overwork your staff.
When everyone works together and values mental health, the company can move forward at more productive and sustainable levels than ever before.