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Stress-Less: How To Help Chronically Stressed Employees

Published August 10, 2018 (last updated July 15, 2022) -

It’s official: we’re chronically stressed.

The 2018 Cigna 360 Well-Being Survey has found that one in five New Zealanders say their stress is unmanageable, mainly driven by work and finance-related issues. It also shows that New Zealand’s current perception of its overall health and well-being has declined from last year.

The Cigna report comes as New Zealand-based Estate Planning specialists Perpetual Guardian published results of its 4-day work week trial, finding that a reduced work week reduced staff stress by 7%. Meanwhile, employees also reported greater levels of work-life balance, jumping from 54% in 2017 to 78% after the trial.

Such results shine a spotlight on employee stress and the responsibilities of employers to manage stress in the workplace. But if a 4-day work week is impractical for your business, what exactly can you do?

Here are some tips for small business owners that can help reduce employee stress in the workplace:

Lead by example

While it’s easy to preach work/life balance, employees tend to follow the example set by their bosses. If you’re regularly emailing after hours, making late-night phone calls and eating lunch at your desk with no breaks — chances are your employees are feeling the pressure to do the same. Many employees look to their bosses for guidance on how to behave and approach their work. A real commitment to health and wellbeing in the workplace will have to come from the top. Keep your work to business hours, encourage (and take) breaks and make a real commitment to health and wellbeing in your own working life.

Take meetings offline — and outdoors

How often do we attend a meeting only to find colleagues still using their phones, laptops or tablets? Physically present, but mentally elsewhere? The pervasive nature of technology can paradoxically make it harder for people to focus, collaborate and fully engage with their co-workers. Walking Meetings have become a popular method to shake up the drain of the modern meeting. Instead of having your meeting in the same-old office space or meeting room, take the team for a walk around the block or go to a nearby park or cafe and chat as you go.

Walking meetings combine work-related discussions with fresh air, nature, light exercise and a much-needed break from technology. The change of environment can also spark creativity, facilitate more honest conversations and can even generate the important insights and perspectives that might not have been possible in the dreary confines of the office. Statistics have even shown that employees who participate in regular walking meetings report feeling more creative and engaged at work.

Introduce more flexibility

One of the benefits of the tech-revolution is that it allows people to work from almost anywhere. Introduce policies and procedures that allow people to work from home every once in a while or to change their standard working hours so they can better manage their out-of-work commitments such as kids, hobbies, personal goals, health and relationships. With more freedom to manage their work alongside the other commitments in their lives, employees can better manage their workload, personal lives and the stress of juggling both.

About Employsure

Employsure is one of New Zealand’s largest workplace relations advisers to small and medium businesses, with over 5,500 clients. We take the complexity out of workplace legislation to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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