Does it feel like your employees are more stressed lately? Before it leads to a dip in productivity and burnout, consider these nine workplace wellness ideas to relieve the pressure.
Feeling pressed for time? Sitting under a mountain of to-dos? A little short of breath, perhaps? Join the very large crowd. In fact, the World Health Organization calls stress the “health epidemic of the 21st century” and the workplace is a primary contributor.
Today’s employees are under more pressure than ever, with 65% of people citing work as the top source of stress in their lives. The toxic combination of excessive workloads, long hours and the “always-on” work culture means that many workers face a dangerous level of stress. When the holidays arrive, everything gets just a little bit worse.
What can employers do to help improve workplace wellness?
Ultimately, employees feel less stressed out when they know whether they are succeeding or failing and whether their work is helping move the business forward. Without that knowledge, it’s easy for them to lose sight of the bigger picture and take on additional stress. During the holidays, managers should consider pouring on the praise, talking about all the progress being made toward the vision, and getting employees pumped up about the year ahead.
Office and Facilities Managers also have their part to play in mitigating workplace stress. Here are a few strategies to consider.
A Breath of Fresh Air
Being in nature has a calming effect. It also helps to reduce blood pressure, decrease heart rate, release tension in the muscles, and lower the production of stress hormones. Here are a few ideas for inviting Mother Nature into the workplace.
1. Tree Bathing
The Japanese practice of ‘forest bathing’ is basically just being in the presence of trees. If your company has the grounds for it, consider constructing and maintaining an area packed with trees where employees can have a picnic, a walking meeting, or even sit on a bench and take a nap. Breathing in forest air is scientifically proven to reduce stress hormone production. So, not only will it make them feel fresher and better, and it will actually improve immune system function.
2. Outdoor Office Spaces
Companies like Microsoft, LL Bean, and Amazon have jumped on this biophilic design trend by providing workers with focus-inducing outdoor space such as a treehouse conference room, courtyards, and other fully-functioning outdoor environments. If your company doesn’t have a large budget, encouraging employees to bring a plant to work—or three—is a micro-step for well-being.
3. Doggy Day Care
Let’s not forget their best friend Fido. One study from Virginia Commonwealth University found that “Employees who brought their dogs to work experienced lower stress levels throughout the workday, reported higher levels of job satisfaction, and had a more positive perception of their employer.” Bark less. Wag more.
Traditional Break Room Alternatives
While traditional breakrooms, with their suffocating fluorescent lighting and windowless walls, may be cheap and efficient, they aren’t very relaxing. That’s why one of the best strategies for workplace wellness comes down to providing modern break room options for your employees.
4. Quiet Things Down
Consider making your breakroom an official “quiet room” for employees to rest their nerves and regroup. This is particularly effective in high-pressure environments where workplace stress is a necessary part of the job. Recent studies have shown that busier individuals actually benefit more from quiet time and that low-volume environments can provide a stress reduction that benefits mental health.
5. Food Perks
The way to people’s hearts is through their stomachs. More to the point, free lunches and delicious nibbles lure your employees away from their desks and get them mingling. This can help them feel more connected to their work and the company in general.
6. A Breakroom in the Mind
A little bit of mindfulness goes a long way. And there is no shortage of apps out there that make this easy for people to step out mentally and achieve more balance. Headspace, Calm, Aura and Insight Timer all offer a wide variety of pre-programmed sessions, support, and sound-scapes designed to help people notice and process stressful moments more effectively.
Change of Scenery
Streamlining, optimizing, and standardizing can be stress-inducing—especially for employees who feel that they’ve been stretched too thin already.
When considering strategies to reduce stress in the workplace, think about breaking up the standard flow of the day and providing opportunities for a shift in perspective.
7. Daily Nature Walks
Encourage employees to get out of the office and enjoy the great-er outdoors with a #dailywalk. In addition to the obvious benefit of improved health, it turns out that walking has benefits for creativity. There’s something about the unstructured nature of the thought process during a walk that leads to dramatic increases in creative thinking. This is good news for the person taking the walk as well as the company they work for!
8. Volunteer Perks
Volunteer opportunities are an excellent way to build teamwork, reconnect with isolated employees, and engage in stress management while working for the greater good. Find an event you like, leave a signup sheet in the breakroom, and promote the event across your organization.
9. Life Balance Perks
Coffee cards, gym memberships, or earned time for personal errands and activities is a low-cost way to help employees take a break. A coffee shop and some ice cream or an hour of aerobic exercise can help your employees come back relaxed, refreshed, and ready to get on with the rest of their day.
Even the best facilities strategy can’t make up for a lack of leadership and poor communication. Everyone needs to feel connected to the mission and able to pat themselves on the back for helping the company move forward. Without that, workplace stress easily spirals out of control and productivity suffers.
But facilities managers do have a part to play in helping employees dial down their stress levels and avoid burnout. In the end, we’re all human. And the more we’re able to connect with our humanity and our true natures, the happier we’ll be. As a side bonus, that happens to be great for worker productivity.