Don't Stress Over Employee Stress — Manage It!

Don’t Stress Over Employee Stress — Manage It!

Are you aware of the effects employee stress is having on your productivity and bottom line? Hailed as "the health epidemic of the 21st century" by the World Health Organization, organizational stress trickles down from business owners to managers and down to the employees.

If employee stress isn't addressed, it can hamper productivity while causing an increase in accidents, unreported near misses, and safety incidents. However, you don't have to let employee stress go unchecked. Continue reading to learn more about employee stress, how to spot it in the workplace, and ways management can proactively combat employee stress.

What is Employee Stress?

Employee emotional stress can be defined as the pressure, tension, or strain that results in psychological and/or physiological effect on someone's body or a deforming effect on their emotions. For instance, sexual harassment, abuse, or exposure to a traumatic workplace event could cause employee stress.

What's Employee Stress Costing Your Business?

Employee stress is estimated to cost American businesses up to a staggering $300 billion every year according to Even though they do not represent a significant amount of workplace claims, employee stress is the fastest growing claim type today — and could be the largest hidden cost for your business.

A study conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) discovered over 50% of the U.S. workforce consider job stress a major problem in their lives.

A recent survey of a large provider of employee assistance programs — ComPsych — revealed the dimensions and impacts of the employee stress problem:

  • 21% of respondents said employee stress caused them to make errors or miss deadlines
  • 15.5% of respondents reported employee stress caused them problems getting along with superiors or coworkers
  • 14.9% of respondents reported employee stress caused them to miss days of work
  • 14.4% of respondents reported employee stress resulted in tardiness

What Are Signs of Employee Stress?

There are several observable indicators of employee stress. Some of the most common signs for individuals include:

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Muscular tension
  • Heart palpitations
  • Gastrointestinal upsets, such as constipation or diarrhoea
  • Insomnia and other sleeping difficulties
  • Dermatological colors

While the previously mentioned symptoms are for individual observations, the following trends and observations can be seen on a group level:

  • They have a short temper
  • Increase in staff turnover
  • General increase in absenteeism
  • Disputes and arguments between staff
  • An increase in complaints and grievances

What Can Be Done About Employee Stress?

Although every workspace is different, there are a few common things management can do to reduce workplace stress and create a holistically more comfortable and safer environment.

Encourage Breaks

It's important for all employees to take breaks throughout the day — including salaried employees. As a matter of fact, studies show people are most productive if they work in 90-minute sprints punctuated by 20-minute breaks.

Encourage Employee Wellness Programs

Implementing an employee wellness program can communicate you care about your employees while highlighting the resources available to them. Good examples of employee wellness programs include:

  • Running group-wide healthy eating challenges
  • Paying for a portion of their gym memberships
  • Offering smoking cessation programs
  • Encouraging alternative transportation methods, such as public transit incentives or bike sharing
  • Provide yoga classes
  • Creating a successful safety recognition program


In many instances, employees simply want to be heard and want the opportunity to share what they are feeling and thinking. Creating a sustainable and viable solution for employees to express their complaints and/or concerns is an excellent way to take the pulse of your workforce and alleviate employee stress in the process.

Create a Pleasant Working Environment

No one wants to spend their days working in an environment that is noisy, cluttered, unpleasant, and dirty. Most studies show that excessive disarray and clutter is directly related to increased anxiety and stress.

At the same time, clutter can make it more difficult for your employees to complete their tasks. While you may not be able to transform the physical environment, you can encourage workers to manage noise levels and keep the place clean.

Lead by Example

In order to reduce employee stress, it's vital for management to be on board and lead by example. As a leader, you must manage your emotions and avoid allowing negativity, stress, or anger rub off on your employees. A few simple action items you can use to reduce and manage employee stress are:

  • Arrange socializing opportunities with the team
  • Organize walking meetings instead of office meetings
  • Make sure you take regular breaks

Contact ATI of New York Today

One of the most essential ways to reduce employee stress is to create a culture of safety. At Premier Safety Partners, we are the experts in safety and offer years of experience helping organizations create programs designed to guide and influence employees toward safer and more desirable outcomes.

Contact ATI of New York today to schedule a health and safety consultation.

About the Author

Scott Ray is an industry leader in Health and Safety. Recognized for his business acumen and innovative approach, Scott has a track record in successfully implementing H&S systems that result in fostering a culture of operational excellence. His 25 year Health and Safety career includes both technical and leadership experience within diverse industries including energy/utilities, manufacturing, higher education, construction, defense and aerospace.

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