Workplace stress taking its toll on employees

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With looming deadlines and unrealistic expectations, are employers doing enough to reduce workplace stress? New research says … maybe not so much.

Sixty percent of workers say work-related pressure has increased in the last five years, according to new research from staffing firm Accountemps. Millennials top this super-stressed heap: 64% say they’re overwhelmed at work compared with 59% of professionals age 35 to 54 and only 35% of workers ages 55 and older.

“Business is moving faster than ever, and employees can feel the crunch when it comes to imminent deadlines,” says Bill Driscoll, a district president for Accountemps. “Workers shouldn’t suffer in silence. They can tap internal resources for help or seek advice from their managers to ensure they meet work expectations, while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.”

See also: 29 jobs with the best work-life balance

Top causes of workplace stress, according to the survey, include:

• Heavy workload/looming deadlines (33%)
• Unrealistic expectations of managers (22%)
• Attaining work-life balance (22%)
• Coworker conflicts (15%)

Increases in stress levels have harmful effects on the bottom line, Driscoll notes. From increased burnout and turnover to decreased morale and productivity, managers need to keep an eye out for the signs of increased stress levels — such as missed deadlines or excessive overtime. “Talk to employees to pinpoint triggers and implement stress-relieving solutions,” he says.

How employers can help

One big way employers can help tackle employee stress is to help them prioritize. Managers should meet with workers individually to help prioritize workloads and set realistic expectations about project deadlines and desired outcomes, Accountemps suggests. If there is too much work to go around, employers should bring in temporary professionals to lighten the workload for full-time employees.

Additionally, the Accountemps report suggests, employers should encourage workers to use available stress-relieving tools, including stress-management webinars, wellness programs and yoga or meditation classes.

Another way to help reduce workplace stress is with a little fun.

“One way to break up [workplace] tension is with a laugh,” suggests Josh Warborg, district president of Accountemps. “There is a place for humor in the workplace as long as the mood is lightened appropriately. Choose topics carefully and never single out anyone. Remember that the end goal is to make work fun and less stressful.”

Some ideas for making work fun while boosting camaraderie? Planning pizza or ice cream parties, having themed work days or organizing friendly competitions, Warborg says.

But, Accountemps notes, the onus isn’t just on employers to reduce stress in the workplace. It’s on employees, too. For example, employees can work on being better organized or talking to and working with managers if a workload becomes too cumbersome.

Employees surveyed by Accountemps said taking a break is important when feeling overwhelmed at work.

“Step away from your desk, go for a walk or grab a snack,” Accountemps says. “If [employees] can’t get outside, look away from the computer and focus on a non-work related activity for a few minutes.”

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