Recognize Employee Stress—and Help Them Manage It

Stress seems like a way of life, whether it’s positive (preparing to move to a new house), negative (dealing with a chronic illness), or work-related. Eighty percent of Americans deal with some form of work-related stress—and half of those workers say they need help learning to manage it. This affects not only workers but managers too, as 68% of managers reported moderate or high levels of stress.

National Stress Awareness Month, which takes place in April, encourages people to recognize what stress is and how to manage it. A company culture that encourages employees and employers to talk about and manage stress is key to everyone’s wellbeing, but only 17.6% of workers say they have a culture that encourages them to open up and talk about it. 

Weaving stress management into your company culture shouldn’t only be because of National Stress Awareness Month. It should always be a priority to help with employee retention, as well as overall wellness and organizational strength. Here are some ways to include it into your company’s culture and daily routine.

Recognize the signs

Stress can cost U.S. businesses the health and wellbeing of their employees, as well as time and money—$300 billion a year annually, in fact. As an employer, you need to spot and recognize the signs, such as:

  • Decreased productivity and quality of work
  • Work/life imbalance
  • Poor physical and mental health
  • Low morale and motivation
  • Impacted workplace relationships

It’s also important to recognize when employees are putting too much pressure on themselves, whether it’s real or self-imposed. When you recognize the signs and see frazzled, stressed employees, pull them aside and take time to listen to their concerns. You can help them with decreased productivity, for instance, by easing up on deadlines and giving them permission to prioritize projects.

Check in when necessary

Along with recognizing the signs, it’s essential to check in and get as much information as possible about what causes your employees to feel stress at work. Be prepared to also intervene, where necessary, and manage certain stressors—for example, when a project is pulled off track for any reason and you see people start to get stressed, sit down with them and brainstorm how to get it back on track.

Give them time—and space

Stress can’t be completely avoided. But you can ensure your employees have some time and space to step away from work for a bit and destress. In an office space, this can include providing things like:

  • A small room designated as a nap/lounge area
  • Outdoor benches/gardens
  • More extended vacations or PTO
  • Encouraged breaks
  • Strong boundaries around work hours/ hours of availability

Also, whether you’re in an office or offer remote work, consider including No Meeting Days into the schedule. Encourage employees to block off time on their calendars to focus on their tasks and keep from getting bogged down or overwhelmed by many meetings. Giving employees time and space to themselves lets them reset, refocus, and recharge.

Encourage workplace wellness

Exercise and healthy living are some of the best stress-busters out there. Exercise improves mood by releasing happy calming hormones called endorphins and eating healthy helps people feel more energetic and at their best because, as they say, you are what you eat.

If you work on-site, this could mean having office yoga days, walking breaks, and offering healthy snacks in the break room. If your company is remote, this could mean providing employees with benefits like access to health and wellness apps. When employees know you’re looking out for their health and wellbeing, it doesn’t go unnoticed.

Provide advice and opportunities for counseling

Almost half of U.S. workers say they need to learn to manage stress better. Teach your employees how to better manage stress by providing on-site or distance counseling/training or setting time aside for your employees to get together with you or their coworkers to brainstorm stress management techniques. Just providing the option for them to talk prepares your employees for whatever may come their way.

(Don’t) feel the pressure

More and more people are feeling the pressure and experiencing high levels of stress. Helping your employees manage stress in the workplace lets them identify triggers and gives them the right tools to protect their health and keep them calm—no matter when, or where, stress might hit.


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Photo by stokkete