Relaxed Attitude: Giving Employees a Stress Break Can Improve Productivity
By Jame Geathers, Human Resources and Operations Professional, Jame Geathers Consulting
If you ever needed a reason to take a personal day and head to the golf course, just in time for Masters Week, April is national Stress Awareness month.
According to a 2005 study by the American Institute of Stress, stress-related illnesses cost American employers about $300 billion per year. With long hours, deadlines, office conflict, family responsibilities and other pressures, you and your employees may need to get out and play. As an employer, you may be aware of employee challenges at work but you may not be aware how their stress levels can affect your business. From excessive sick days to increased health insurance premiums, employee stress can take a big bite out of your bottom line.
Now, understand I am not implying that as an employer you should be a therapist for your team. That is a line that you cannot and should not cross. Not to worry, though; you can lower the stress level of your team by making small changes to your office culture and policies. No couch necessary.
For starters, you may want to start by evaluating your current time off policy. Does your company offer paid time off (PTO) or only sick leave? If you’re wondering, the difference between the two is that one is for illness only and the other can be used for any reason.
Another thing to consider: How difficult is it for an employee to take time off. Do you require weeks or even months of advance notice? Does your company require documentation for an employee to use time off? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you may want to consider modifying your policy.
Understandably, you may be concerned that a more relaxed policy will result in employees running amuck, missed deadlines and rampant absenteeism, but nothing can be further from the truth. Most employees appreciate employers who value their wellbeing and ultimately are more committed to exceeding expectations in exchange for flexibility. Of course, there will be exceptions to that rule, but you should chalk that up to those employees not being a good fit for your organization.
Another option you may want to consider is adding an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to your benefits package. That is an excellent tool that can help employees reach out confidentially when they need help or if they are struggling. Whether their stress is personal or professional, having an EAP will empower your team to take control of their stress and their lives, in most cases without you having to get personally involved.
Additionally, a few small changes that you could make to your office culture would be encouraging employees to use available time off by using it yourself. It may seem unthinkable to take off on a Tuesday afternoon to hit the golf course or a week off to take a much needed vacation but it’s worth it. Your employees need to see that you have some sort of work-life balance (or at least appear to) and as a business owner you need a break.
Finally, consider implementing summer hours on Fridays. That typically runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day and allows employees to take full advantage of great summer weather without having to use PTO.
Regardless of your approach, reducing employee stress is a winning strategy for your company and your employees. If you need any additional information or assistance with dealing with employee stress please contact us.
Jame Geathers is a Human Resources and Operations Professional with more than 12 years of experience in both the corporate and non-profit sectors. Jame has spent her career building and supporting HR infrastructures that have provided her employers and clients with the structure and policies that all start-ups need but owners may not have time to create and implement. For more information please visit the Jame Geathers Consulting website, www.jamegeathers.com or call (706) 496-9691.