As an entrepreneur, you're accustomed to dealing with high stress levels, but what about your employees? Yes, they have stress, too. And when work stress builds up, your team members become less productive and emotionally disconnected, and they lose sleep.
Last week Inc's Graham Winfrey posted a very telling infographic on The Scary Truth About Stress in the Workplace. Did you know that stress-related health care and missed work are costing employers $300 billion a year? Heck, for a small business even $3,000 a year is a lot. It's time to pay attention to your employees' stress levels, not just because it's costing you but also to show them you care.
Here are 10 free or inexpensive ways to help your team de-stress on the job. Learning more about these simple things may even help them develop healthy habits outside of work. Healthy, happy employees will lower your stress level as well, so there are benefits all around.
1. Let them come in late or leave early.
That's right, flex time offers employees a sense of independence, which is known to reduce stress even more than shorter hours. As long as they are meeting quotas and getting the job done, do you really care which hours they choose to do it in? Of course, some employees do need to be present during specific hours. Try staggering their hours to give these team members a sense of independence, too.
2. Feed and educate them.
Studies have linked vitamin B with good mental health, and omega-3s may help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Whole-grain carbs help regulate levels of serotonin, the "feel-good" neurotransmitter that helps us remain calm. In short, eating right ranks high on the list of stress-busting activities.
Busy people tend to grab a snack from the vending machine and eat at their desks. You'll help them break that habit when you cater a healthy lunch-and-learn once a month. Many local professionals who are willing to come in to talk about nutrition and other health-related topics.
3. Talk to them.
When I work with my clients' employees, I hear a lot of complaints about being kept in the dark at work. Concerns over pending changes, the state of the company, and unknown expectations cause great stress. Don't keep your employees in the dark. Communicate what you expect of them, how they are doing, what they can improve upon, and what's ahead for the company.
4. Take a break to imagine.
By now you've probably heard that meditation is relaxing, but what scientists are also discovering is that meditation actually increases the amount of grey matter in the brain, essentially rewiring the body to stress less. Other benefits include boosting cognitive function, strengthening the immune system, and reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Do an online search for "guided visualizations" and choose a few recordings to share with your team (many are free). Most of them are under 10 minutes and offer lasting benefits. Doing a guided visualization is much easier for the beginner than a silent meditation, but just as effective.
5. Make 'em laugh.
When you come across a funny video, share it with the office. Don't just forget those silly jokes you hear. Instead, share them at the start of weekly meetings. If silliness feels too unnatural for you or you don't have the time, assign an employee to be your laugh ambassador.
6. Take your meeting for a walk.
If your team consists of only two or three people, you really don't have to sit around a conference table for every meeting. Why not do a little exercise and take in some fresh air while you're sharing your updates and ideas? A break in the routine will also give them a break from the stress.
7. Offer relaxing smells.
Pure essential oils are known to reduce tension in the body and help increase mental clarity. Purchase an inexpensive ultrasonic diffuser and some quality essential oils (I use Young Living) and sparingly share these olfactory delights in the office. Make sure to inquire about allergies and sensitivities before you make the investment.
8. Encourage breaks.
Deadlines and demands usually lead to hours of unrelenting physical and mental stress. This is counter-productive. The human brain needs a break every two hours and the body needs a break every hour. Just five minutes will do the trick. So instead of asking where your employees are when they are missing from their desks, congratulate them for taking a break.
9. Give them a massage.
The folks at Mayo Clinic say that massage reduces anxiety, insomnia, headaches, and muscle tension. Your team will function better if they receive a regular massage, but you probably don't pay them enough.
There are lots of new massage therapists out there who would jump at the chance to promote their business by dropping by your office to offer 10 minute chair massages. Be nice, tip them well.
10.Pretty up the place with plants.
A study at Kansas State University says non-flowering plants are proven to reduce blood pressure levels. Introduce a few low-maintenance plants to your environment; not only are they pretty but they will help to keep your team healthy.
In short, your employees are your number one asset, so help them to live a long, healthy life!