April is Stress Awareness Month – 30 days dedicated to increasing awareness around sources of stress and the general threat it presents to overall health. It’s an effort embraced by many healthcare providers, but given the most typical source of stress and the high cost to employers, it’s an initiative that would make a lot of sense for companies to take seriously.
Work is a Leading Cause of Stress
According to the American Institute of Stress, an estimated 75–90% of visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related disorders, and studies confirm that occupational pressures and fears are the leading source of stress for American adults. Currently, 40% of American workers say that their jobs are very or extremely stressful, and 26% of employees say they are very often stressed at the workplace.
Stressed Out Workers Cost Companies Big
An infographic created by Eastern Kentucky University's Occupational Safety program illustrates how companies spend about $300 billion annually for missed work days and health care resulting from workplace stress. That’s a colossal price tag, which doesn’t even account for the lowered productivity of disengaged people. According to Gallup, 70% of American employees are slowing economic growth by not working to their full potential.
How to Promote Workplace Wellness
There are lots of ways employees can naturally mitigate tension and anxiety while promoting wellness at work. Topping the list are connecting with others, being prepared, getting enough rest, calming the mind, getting the blood moving, giving back, getting outside, relaxing the body, and finding mental focus. Here are quick, tech-friendly ways to go after each.
1. Encourage connection.
In Podcast 23, Gretchen Rubin talks about using a workplace show that everyone is watching is a good way for people who might not typically participate in a workplace conversation to become a part of the conversation. She cites the fact that people who are happy at work often say they have a lot of really strong relationships with people at work. Having an office show can promote workplace wellness by encouraging widespread connection.
2. Encourage preparedness.
In his TedTalk, How to stay calm when you know you'll be stressed, Daniel Levitin discusses how you're not at your best when you're stressed. In fact, your brain has evolved over millennia to release cortisol in stressful situations, inhibiting rational, logical thinking but potentially helping you survive, say, being attacked by a lion. Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin thinks there's a way to avoid making critical mistakes in stressful situations, when your thinking becomes clouded — the pre-mortem. "We all are going to fail now and then," he says. "The idea is to think ahead to what those failures might be." When we visualize what might happen, we’re better prepared.
3. Encourage rest.
Some forward-thinking companies have added nap rooms to their offices. When employees stay awake burning the midnight oil working, there are nap rooms at company headquarters to help them catch up. Most of us don’t a the 7–8 hours of sleep we’re supposed to have each night, so if you allow employees to take a power nap, you’ll see a boost in energy, productivity and creativity. Promoting wellness in the workplace sometimes means encouraging napping. Power Nap App helps people create discipline in a daily napping routine.
4. Encourage meditation.
The numbers are off the charts, which is probably why 18 million Americans meditate regularly to mitigate stress. Encourage employees to download a mindfulness and meditation app that helps them quiet their minds and relieve stress. Headspace makes it easy for people just learning the art of meditation, and it offers a buddy system that lets you and a friend encourage each other in your journey.
5. Encourage exercise.
MakeMe is an app for encouraging group activities. Whether used with colleagues at a single office – or among global colleagues at multiple sites, MakeMe fosters shared moments of achievement and encouragement from one another to increase our collective ability to succeed. This is a surefire way to promote wellness at work.
6. Encourage giving back.
Earn money for charities every time you run, walk or bike by using the free Charity Miles app. Corporate sponsors agree to donate a few cents for every mile you complete. Browse the app's list of charities, find the one that you support, and then hit the road. When a lot of people use Charity Miles, those little bits of money add up. You can even do team competitions at the office to help promote wellness and raise money for a great cause!
7. Encourage breaks.
Take a Break gives users a quick and uncomplicated break to help relieve stress whenever they need it. When employees are reminded to take the breaks they have a right to by law, they return to their desks or workstations more clear-headed and motivated than before they had a few minutes to step away.
8. Encourage pets.
Many companies are getting smart to the fact that allowing pets in the workplace can dramatically reduce collective stress, in turn heightening productivity. If inviting four-legged friends isn’t an option, the Cam2Pet app lets employees check in on their pets from their offices for a quick fix of endorphins in fuzzy form.
Related: 10 of the Best Companies for Dogs
9. Encourage awareness.
Tune in to the Glassdoor Quickstart Guide to Thriving Employees to learn how to empower your teams to not only manage and reduce stress but to thrive, both inside and outside of work. You’ll learn the 4 pillars of a healthy, mindful, successful life; why a good day at work starts the night before; and how to increase awareness of stress triggers to prevent burnout.
10. Encourage morale.
Remember to set aside time each month to celebrate your company culture wins. Many top companies go out of their way to talk about their Glassdoor reviews at company all-hands meetings – and they see an uptick in reviews after those meetings. Glassdoor helps tell the story of your company, which offers a powerful source of amalgamation among employees. When there are positive reviews in a culture like that, everyone shares in the pride.
Whether you share tech-friendly resources with your colleagues on your internal wiki, or you push out regular emails including tips for staying healthy in mind and body, your employees will be far less stressed if they find and adopt a few strategies for keeping anxiety at bay. The payoff? A far better company culture, more productive employees, and lower healthcare costs. It’s a win-win for both employees and employers.