Reducing Stress in the Workplace


You’ve been there—under deadline, overwhelmed, and managing so many details, you can’t think straight. You’d love to take a much-needed break, but there’s just too much work to do. 

So you work late into the evening, grab something quick to eat on the way home, and promise yourself you’ll make time for exercise tomorrow. Tomorrow ends up just like today. The stress mounts, and there’s a good chance the quality of your work is affected as well.

In this guide to reducing stress in the workspace, we’ll cover 14 ideas leaders and team members alike can use to effectively manage stress and ultimately produce a higher quality of work in the process. 

Manage Stress to Improve Productivity

As a manager or leader in your workspace, you can directly impact the stress your team feels, and it’s in your best interest to do so. Replacing an employee is estimated to cost an astounding $1,500 to $10,000 per employee.

Rather than using company dollars (and your energy) to keep up with employee turnover, put those resources toward making your workspace a better place to be. 

1. Set realistic expectations

Most of us have been through one or two all-hands-on-deck projects demanding quick turnarounds. While the occasional impromptu project with a tight deadline is unavoidable, they should be limited as much as possible. When planning your monthly and yearly calendar, set realistic expectations with well-spaced deadlines so employees have time to produce work they can be proud of.

2. Be flexible

Opportunities for flexible schedules and remote work have become much more common in today’s society. These positions create variability that allows for stretches of uninterrupted work time and allow employees to better attend to appointments and family needs, while still meeting their overall work deadlines.

Letting your team members have more control over their work hours is a powerful stress-reduction tactic. In fact, 27% of employees say flexible scheduling is the most valuable benefit to avoid burnout and obtain balance between their work and home lives.

3. Emphasize the importance of breaks 

Studies show that stepping away for a few minutes increases long-term productivity, job satisfaction, engagement, and overall mental health

Aim to provide your team with uninterrupted lunch breaks, company-sponsored team outings and volunteer opportunities, or days designated for mental health and rest where feasible. These “recharge” opportunities will not only offer your team the chance to increase creativity, focus, and quality of work, but will also make team members feel more valued by you and the company

4. Communicate clearly 

Clear communication encourages clear thinking to improve efficiency and decrease frustration. Put yourself in your team members’ position to evaluate the completeness of instructions, whether the team has the tools necessary to complete the task, and the tone with which you deliver your messages, both written and verbally.

5. Be a resource 

As a leader, you set the tone for the workday. In addition to clear and open communication, it’s integral that you make yourself available as a resource to champion the successes of your team. 

Letting your team know they can come to you for guidance and delivering on promises builds trust - allowing you to inspire and boost morale, which, in turn will improve the quality of work your team produces.

6. Limit micro-management 

Employees need to feel trusted to deliver quality work on time. They accomplish this by being appreciated for high-quality output and held accountable when deadlines or expectations are not met, not by being constantly monitored. 

Let your team focus, but remain available to help. If you don’t feel that you can fully trust your team to get the job done on time or to your expectation level, then it’s best to take a step back and try to identify the cause - a disconnect in communication, a lack of proper training, or maybe something more? 

In addition to striving for your team’s growth and development, be open to self-evaluation as a leader and ways you can set your team up for success.

7. Encourage employee wellness

A health-focused workplace recognizes that employee wellness should always be top-of-mind and provides the resources employees need to feel comfortable at work. Think cozy work nooks, breakroom games, and other ways employees might choose to relax during off-hours. 

Offering healthy snacks, encouraging movement with flexible seating options, and providing ergonomic workspace setups, such as standing desks or desk risers, can enhance physical and mental health alike.

Remember that some team members prefer to recharge in quiet spaces. Encourage your team members to utilize focus rooms or take short walks as needed. According to Prevention, walking can boost mood, improve decision making, increase creativity, and promote better sleep.

Employee Wellness is an Inside Job

Once a leader sets up circumstances that allow their team to thrive, it’s the employees’ turn to take responsibility for their personal work environments and physical and mental health

8. Identify overwhelm 

Thirty-one percent of employees said their mental health declined in 2021. Among contributing factors, consider your environment and expectations. Is it too loud to focus? Do constant tight deadlines prevent you from taking breaks? Do you look at your to-do list and get lost deciding where to begin? 

To prevent being overwhelmed at work, you need first to understand and define its source.

9. Manage your time 

If you regularly find yourself asking where the day went, take a look at your time management strategy. One useful tactic is to divide your day into segments - include time to focus on projects, check and respond to emails, and take consistent breaks.

Be realistic about your goals and their timelines. Otherwise, the first thing to go will be breaks, and you risk work expanding to fill your entire day. 

10. Communicate clearly

Just as you appreciate clear and respectful communication from your manager, commit to delivering the same to them. Take time to form your thoughts, evaluate other’s perspectives, and do your best to communicate your preferred solution to any problems you’re bringing to their attention. 

If you’re confused about a project or directive, ask. Push for clear expectations and actionable steps, so you and your manager know whether you’re meeting your goals. 

11. Curate your space and stay organized

Reducing excess noise and visual distractions improves focus. Use noise-canceling headphones, designate spaces for food and electronics, and keep your computer desktop uncluttered. 

For added mental organization, Google Calendar offers an option to schedule focus time.

12. Get comfortable 

Physical pain increases anxiety and decreases cognition. Set up your workstation to be comfortable—this goes a long way toward overall stress reduction. Create an ergonomic desk setup, do eye yoga for screen fatigue, and get up and move when needed. 

13. Reinforce your boundaries

Do you need your work email or employee message programs like Slack or Teams on your phone? Do you let assignments bleed into your nights and weekends? Many of us are guilty of blurring the boundary between work and personal time—a recent study found that 55 percent of employees don’t use all their PTO

Let yourself disconnect from work when you’re off so you can give it your all when you’re there. 

14. Prioritize physical and mental health in your job search

When the time comes to look for greener employment pastures, look for a company that offers wellness stipends as part of their benefits packages. These dollars are allocated for wellness initiatives like gym memberships, bodywork, therapy, and healthy food deliveries. 

Final Thoughts

Physical and mental health reinforce each other, and they are the foundation of a healthy work and home life. Reduce stress in the workplace so you can be the best version of yourself in every environment. 

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