There’s no question – there’s a lot going on in the world. Much of it is adding to our daily stress levels. HR’s role in helping employees deal with stress has become increasingly important. Many employees are feeling overwhelmed and burned out. Some are fearful of job loss in such a volatile economy. Others are dealing with family members suffering from Covid. HR professionals need to be extra vigilant in recognizing and addressing these issues. Having a better understanding of causes, signs, and methods to reduce stress will help you to more effectively help employees.
74% of adults say they’ve experienced at least one symptom of stress in the past 30 days.
Origins of Stress
Stressors are different for everyone. What keeps one person from wanting to get out of bed in the morning may not even phase someone else. But that doesn’t mean the effect of the stress is any less negative, mentally or physically. In today’s digital media age, two of the greatest sources of overall stress are the future of our nation and the current political climate. Whatever side you’re on, these issues feel like they are out of our control. Other sources include work and money – often going hand in hand. From supply chain delays to staffing issues, there is a seemingly endless number of stress-inducing factors. Crime and violence also have a hand in things that wreak havoc on our bodies and minds. Add to all this the natural worry we have for the health and wellness of our loved ones and it has become a perfect storm of nerves.
One of the approaches that I personally find useful is to cultivate the thought: If the situation or problem is such that it can be remedied, then there is no need to worry about it. In other words, if there is a solution or a way out of the difficulty, you do not need to be overwhelmed by it. The appropriate action is to seek its solution. Then it is clearly more sensible to spend your energy focusing on the solution rather than worrying about the problem. Alternatively, if there is no solution, no possibility of resolution, then there is also no point in being worried about it, because you cannot do anything about it anyway. In that case, the sooner you accept this fact, the easier it will be for you.
— The 14th Dalai Lama,
as published in The Hindustan Times
How Stress Presents Itself
Stress can manifest itself in many ways. Some are easy to spot while some may resemble other ailments – often not treatable with standard treatment. Most common are headaches closely followed by stomachaches. When we’re stressed, our bodies alter how they function. In simple terms, you could view these symptoms as warning signs that you need to take a step back and focus on personal care. Nervousness and irritability often arise when we’re overwhelmed with demands. All too often we learn to live with these feelings because it feels as if there’s no way to improve our situations – walking away from our jobs or family health crisis is just not possible. Lack of sleep compounds the feelings of stress. Poor eating due to stress is very common (along with becoming more sedentary) all of which lead to common secondary symptoms like hair loss, weight gain, and more. In worse cases, turning to alcohol or drugs of any sort introduce their own string of symptoms not to mention possibilities of addiction. In the workplace, you’re likely to see absenteeism, high employee turnover, and poor performance.
1 in 5 adults feel they are not doing enough to manage their levels of stress.
Taking steps in managing stress is as easy as a walk in the park. But one walk alone is not the cure. Setting aside time for that walk on a regular basis is just one step you can take. Sometimes our minds just need a break. It could be guided meditation or 45 minutes of yoga. Anything that requires you to slow down and focus will help clear your mind. Adding soothing music to your bedtime routine can help calm you allowing you to fall asleep faster. Connecting with and confiding in friends and family is another way to get those heavy feelings off your shoulders. Of course, a change of pace – like a vacation – is a great way to rest and reset.
Helping Employees Deal With Stress
Human Resource departments are not expected to be therapists – or yoga instructors. But, there are things that can be done to help improve stress management. For instance, if you don’t already have one, implement an employee wellness program. Providing stress management workshops, massage days, and access to exercise and fitness opportunities are all great options.
Working with upper management to discover ways your company can offer flexibility may help relieve the stress for employees dealing with children at home in quarantine or parents who require their care. Provide the tools employees need to work efficiently from a remote location and keep communication open so they remain part of the team.
Become the mediator. Listen to employees, ask them what is causing their stress and what they think could improve the situation. Then be their advocate when discussing with their managers and try to agree on solutions. Often managers don’t see things until it’s too late.
With no end in sight for Covid or the return of a strong economy, high-stress levels are likely to be common for the near future. Helping employees deal with stress is an important aspect of any HR manager’s job. For more insight and resources, please contact us – we’re here to help!