7 ways employers can reduce stress in the workplace
Stress is overwhelmingly prevalent in modern society. Sleep depravation, poor health, relationship woes and financial concerns can all take their toll, however the number one cause of stress, according to Statistic Brain is work related pressures.
High stress levels often cause or can worsen a long list of health issues, including heart disease, obesity, depression and diabetes. In addition to paying 50 percent more annually in health costs for stressed workers, employers are dealing with additional effects of stress that directly impact their profitability, such as loss of productivity, absenteeism, turnover and disengagement. According to the American Institute of Stress, job stress costs US businesses more than $300 billion annually.
Everyday work pressures are compounded by the current troubled economy and near constant news streams of foreclosures and layoffs, meaning employees are feeling the effects of anxiety and stress more than ever before. With this in mind, there has never been a more important time for employers to make reducing stress a top priority.
HOW CAN EMPLOYERS REDUCE STRESS IN THE WORKPLACE?
LEAD BY EXAMPLE
In order to reduce stress in the workplace, it’s important that managers lead by example. As a leader its critical you keep a lid on your own emotions; don’t let negativity, anger or stress rub off on your employees. Practice what you preach and ensure you give yourself enough time to de-stress at the end of the working day – go for a run, enjoy quality time with your family or arrange to socialize with friends. Likewise, organizing walking meetings rather than meetings in the boardroom, taking regular breaks and booking holiday will not only put you in a better frame of mind, it will also show your employees that its okay to take some time out.
SEE MORE: What should you look for in a mentor?
INTRODUCE WORKPLACE WELLNESS SCHEMES
It has been said time and time again, but exercise and a healthy lifestyle is extremely important when it comes to combating workplace related stress. Employee wellness schemes, such as paying for a portion of employees gym memberships or running group-wide healthy eating challenges is a good way to help employees unwind and feel better about themselves.
CREATE SOCIAL ACTIVITY
Employees spend a lot of time with their co-workers and therefore its important they get along. The more people enjoy their time at work, the better the atmosphere will be – and a better office atmosphere leads to productivity, creativity and collaboration. At least once a week set aside an hour to bring your team together in a fun environment; play a game, go out for lunch or arrange for a motivational speaker to come into the office. Social activity is good for reducing stress, boosting morale and team building.
SEE MORE: How to create a positive work culture
COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR EMPLOYEES
Open communication is critical in leadership; keeping employees up to date regarding changes, expectations and their own performance not only keeps them on track but also reduces feelings of stress and anxiety – after all there is nothing worse than being kept in the dark. As a manager be sure to keep your team abreast of the latest developments and departmental changes. What’s more, open communication is a two way street and the more you converse with your employees, the more likely they are to share concerns, ideas and thoughts making for much stronger working relationships and a healthier overall company culture.
PROVIDE A ‘CHILL OUT’ SPACE IN THE OFFICE
Sometimes people need 15 minutes to relax, re-group and disengage from technology and general work related interactions. Providing a quiet room, or a chill out zone where employees can spend 15 minutes with their thoughts can dramatically help reduce workplace stress and burnout. After taking a short break free from distractions, people often feel refreshed and re-energized to tackle the rest of the day. If you can, provide comfortable seating and paint the walls a neutral color – a pleasant environment is good for boosting happiness.
THINK ABOUT THE HABITAT
What do the likes of Facebook, Google and Twitter do different? Well for starters they think about every detail including their employees work surroundings. Not every company can build its own workers village, complete with health food restaurants and indoor bike lanes, however there is always room for improvement, particularly when it could boost productivity and overall job satisfaction. Think about budgeting for some brighter, more modern office furniture, consider changing the color of the walls (out with the sludge green and in with something fresher, cleaner and brighter), introduce some plants in the office, invest in some new pictures – even small changes like new office cutlery and kitchenware will make the working environment conducive to, well, work. If you have the room, a Ping-Pong or foosball table will go a long way to boosting employee morale too.
ALLOW FLEXI-TIME AND REMOTE WORKING
A major stress inducer, particularly for women, is stringent working hours. Allowing employees to work remotely, or even on a flexi-time scheme is proven to be good for morale and thus profitability. Not only are you saying to your employees, “I trust you,” by allowing them to manage their own time, but you are also taking away added stress such as child care considerations from working parents. Just make sure you manage this sort of flexibility with open communication and by outlining clear expectations and parameters.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.