Stress. It is an often-overused word that can incite a physical reaction simply by mentioning it.
The American Psychological Association says that routine stress from work—things like long hours, manual labor, low-reward positions and projects—can contribute to mental health issues and even have physical impacts such as an increase in heart attacks.
The good news is, employers can help to manage and even reduce employee stress, which serves to boost employee well-being. And when employees are happy and know their employer cares about them, they have improved work quality, productivity, lower absenteeism, less turnover and better customer service ratings.
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What are some of the perks and benefits you can implement to help achieve employee wellness nirvana? Here are just five ideas to get you started.
1. Flexible Work Hours and Paid Time Off
We are humans and humans get sick, as do their little humans. Offering employees the ability to come in a little early and stay a little late, earn and use paid time off, or telecommute on occasion gives them the flexibility they need to have a life outside of the office. This works great for occasions when an employee has an urgent need, as well as for maternity and paternity leave solutions.
Worried about people slacking when working offsite? Don’t. Studies show that employees increase their productivity by 13 percent when allowed to telecommute.
The key to implementing this benefit is releasing the old mindset that working a job has to look a certain way. Choose flexibility instead.
2. On-Site Resources for Stress Reduction
Often stress and the physical symptoms that come with it are ignored due to lack of time to leave work, go to an appointment and return. Even the smallest employers can benefit their employees by providing resources on-site such as chair massages, minor medical screenings and over-the-counter medications such as antacids and acetaminophen.
Additionally, providing a space for moving about on site and physical activity can reduce the overall stress of office life. The key to implementing on-site resources lies in a little extra space for the taking and keeping a few supplies on hand such as a stowaway massage chair.
3. Promote Healthy Living
When job stress takes over, employees often give up self-care in the name of getting the job done. They may trade in a healthy lunch for fast food, trade water for soda, and sleep for caffeine.
Employers can help curb their employees’ self-care deprivation by ensuring there are healthy options available routinely—especially when big projects and deadlines are looming.
This can include fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables in the break rooms, protein snacks, and water coolers where fresh hot and cold water is available. All of these items serve to improve the chances that employees will make healthier choices. To actively promote healthy living, you simply need a refrigerator on site to get started.
4. Encourage Social Interaction
Isolation can be a major stressor. When employees feel they are part of a team, they demonstrate improved communication and can even achieve more with less direction. This all begins with employers encouraging social interaction.
A few simple ways to go about this: celebrate birthdays monthly, have get-to-know-you drills during meetings, arrange company outings or happy hours, or host pot-lucks to encourage mingling during lunch breaks.
Avoid creating these social engagements and then making them mandatory. The best way to encourage involvement is to choose outings and team building activities that fit with your company’s culture. You could even double-dip the good feelings and provide some charity work with your team building activity.
If you are stumped about what would engage your team, simply ask them to fill out anonymous surveys to find out what they would enjoy doing with co-workers or what charities have a special place in their hearts. Implement social interaction at your next meeting by asking everyone to start by sharing a little-known fact about themselves.
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5. Promote Education
Despite all of the media talk about stress and how it affects the physical body and the employee as a part of a company body, sometimes employees just don’t know what they don’t know. Take the opportunity to educate them on stress, how to recognize it, and the signs that it’s taking its toll on the body and mind.
Implementing education is easy and often free for employers, and there are many different speakers always willing to engage a group and spread their message. A few ideas include a mindfulness expert to teach meditation, a yoga instructor, a nutritionist, a stress-management expert and a time management expert—the possibilities are endless.
Every employer has room to provide some flexibility, socialization or education for their employees. Aside from the tangible physical and mental benefits that are enjoyed by the employee, employers have the opportunity to do some good and ultimate realize benefits to their bottom line.