What small businesses can do to reduce employee stress

This article originally appeared in The Philadelphia Enquirer

Are the employees at your small business stressed out? They probably are.

But if that’s the case, then you’re not alone. Last year, 94% of American workers reported that they experienced stress at their workplace, according to a study from Wrike, a collaborative workplace management application. At least 23 percent of the respondents described their stress levels as high, and 6 percent said it was unreasonably high.

Unfortunately, the problem isn’t getting any better. Just last month, a whopping 88 percent of professionals surveyed by executive-search firm Korn Ferry said that, compared to five years ago, the stress level in their workplace was higher, with 51 percent saying it is “much higher.”

Stress can come from many sources — a bad boss, tight deadlines, uncomfortable working conditions — and it can cause health problems, from heart and panic attacks to hypertension. Respondents in the Korn Ferry study said that work-related stress caused loss of sleep and made them call out sick. Besides unhappiness, too much stress can affect productivity and can in some cases lead to employees quitting. None of this is good for any company, particularly a small business where even the absence or loss of one good employee can have a significant impact.

“A stress-free work environment is hard to achieve, as a certain level of pressure (or stress) is healthy to push the workforce to achieve the company’s revenue goals,” said Sarah Slate, a Philadelphia-based independent human resources consultant. “However, when the scale tips to constant stress or fear of the unknown, performance and morale can be negatively affected and cause an unmotivated, unproductive team.”

Larger companies know this and many take actions to make their work environment as stress-free as possible, such as providing recreation spaces, wellness programs, quiet areas, and even nap pods for their employees. But unfortunately, those can be out of the price range for many small-business owners. But there are still plenty of options.

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