We all know stress has negative effects on individual health. But stressed out employees can have a huge impact on the health of your business as well.

If you haven’t been evaluating and addressing the stress levels within your organization, it’s time to start.

The stress connection

Studies have shown that employee health, finance, and engagement issues are all closely connected— and all negatively affected by stress.

Stressed out employees are more likely to develop health problems that cause them to miss work. When they do show up, they often have trouble making decisions, concentrating, meeting deadlines, and getting along with colleagues, coworkers, and customers.

Stress also plays a key role in employee turnover. One Monster.com survey reported that 42% of respondents had purposely changed jobs due to a stressful work environment, and 35% of respondents had thought about it.

And if that isn’t enough to worry about, elevated stress levels can also result in rising healthcare and liability expenses, a higher risk of accidents, and increased potential for workplace conflict or even violence.

Given this information, it’s not hard to imagine how having even one or two high-stress individuals on staff can radically affect organizational productivity, morale and results.

But stress is personal, right?

To some extent, yes. Your employees could very well be stressed out over personal and/or family issues. But work is often cited as a top reason for stress, and personal issues can easily be aggravated or intensified by workplace stress.

Because stress is so often work related, employers have the power to make a substantial difference in the level of stress experienced by employees.

It’s possible to create a less stressful atmosphere with a few targeted changes. If you know where to start.

What’s causing it?

One key roadblock to making those changes is the fact that employee and employer perceptions about what causes workplace stress are often worlds apart.

According to the Global Benefit Attitudes Survey, 53% of workers identified low staffing levels as a major workplace stressor, but only 15% of senior managers acknowledged that staffing levels were a cause of stress in their organization.

Meanwhile, a study by Willis Towers Watson asked both employers and employees to rate various causes of workplace stress and the results were vastly different. For example, while employees ranked low pay as the second highest workplace stressor, employers ranked it number 11.

Clearly there are some stark differences of opinion about what causes workplace stress. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything to reduce stress in your company.

What it does mean is that you shouldn’t attempt to address your workplace stress issues until you’ve clearly identified what they are. Not only could you waste a lot of time and energy “fixing” things that your employees don’t care about, you could set yourself back even more by appearing to be out of touch with their daily realities.

Finding the right solutions

If you really want to know what’s stressing your people out, just ask them! Once you’ve accurately identified the issues, you can make changes that actually make sense.

In the meantime, here are some things you can start doing today to help ease workplace stress:

Lead by example: Energy is contagious. Are you spreading anger and anxiety or encouragement and empathy? Are you working 24 hours a day or setting reasonable boundaries? Your employees will follow in your footsteps. Make sure you’re on the right path.

Give your team the tools to be successful: Whether it’s a technology upgrade, a streamlined process, or an ergonomic desk chair, anything that makes the job more efficient and the workload more manageable will help relieve employee stress. (And increase productivity!)

Assess staffing levels: Has production been increasing while your staff continues to shrink? Have you let people go and not replaced them? You may think this is a brilliant streamlining effort, but if your current staff feels overworked, disengaged and on the verge of burnout, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Sometimes, what the team and the business really need is an extra set of hands.

Evaluate compensation and benefits: Thank you cards and bonuses are great, but if your employees need to work a second job on the weekends, they’re not going to be refreshed and focused come Monday morning. Hire good people and pay them what they are worth. Offer employee benefits, retirement and paid time off programs. If they’re doing a good job, let them know. And compensate them accordingly.

Provide Employee Assistance Programs: Regardless of what’s happening at work, there will always be people on your team who are dealing with something difficult. EAPs have been proven to help reduce stress for those who have them available and take advantage of them.

Bring on the calm

Of course you’ll never be able to completely eliminate stress from your organization, but by taking the time to pinpoint employee stressors and adjusting your processes accordingly, you can reduce workplace stress levels significantly.

In the process, you might even experience increased employee engagement, retention, and morale. Which will make your workplace that much sweeter.

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