Forty percent. Chances are, a good number of your employees are in that 40 percent, and you may well be also. The pandemic and the damage caused by the shutdowns have caused an incredible amount of stress. Plus, none of this took away any of our other problems--except maybe seeing the inlaws more often than you'd like. If your marriage was shaky pre-Covid, being quarantined together probably didn't help. If your job was stressful before, it's probably worse now.

In other words, Americans are just big balls of stress, and that's spilling over into your work environment. As such, some of your employees may ask to take a stress-related leave of absence. You can always say yes to this, but depending on how the stress manifests, the Americans With Disabilities Act may not require you to grant the time off.

However, the best thing to do is to prevent your employees from reaching the point where they need to take a stress-based leave of absence. Here's how you can help.

Be honest about the state of your business

If your business is still struggling, the PPP money has run out, and you're not sure if you'll survive this last quarter, let your employees know. If things are going great and you're looking to expand, let your employees know. 

You may think you're protecting your staff by keeping them away from the bad news, but not knowing is worse than knowing. Your employees already know if business is down--even if you've said nothing. Let them know. Yes, they may quit on you. It's also possible that they will have great ideas that can help you succeed. Regardless of what happens, knowing is less stressful than not knowing.

Make sure people take vacation time

Vacation is weird this year. There's nowhere to go, and even if there were, people don't feel comfortable traveling. It may not even be possible to drive an hour and stay with Grandma for a week. So, some people aren't getting the brain break from work that they need. 

Working from home is decidedly not a vacation. Your employees need to disconnect from their phones and computers to let their brains have a break. It can be critical to reducing stress.

Get your managers training

In-person training is limited right now (for a good reason), but virtual coaching and training are available for your managers. This not only reduces their stress (knowing how to manage is helpful), it reduces your stress (you can trust them to manage), and it reduces employee stress (they don't have to deal with micro-managers with anger problems). 

People can often deal with stressful situations if they have the support they need. A bad manager can take a good situation and turn it stressful. Imagine the damage a bad manager can do when the situation is already stressful.

Remind your employees (and yourself) about your EAP

An employee assistance program is a fairly inexpensive add-on to your benefits program. If you don't have one, talk to your insurance broker and get one in place for 2021. If you do have one, it can help you and your employees with the stress they experience--work and home-related. An EAP can refer to lawyers and therapists (and may provide these at a reduced rate, depending on your program). Marital problems can spill into the workplace, and getting some couples counseling may reduce your employees' overall stress.

When an employee needs stress leave

You can do everything right, and an employee may still need a leave of absence for stress. The Americans With Disabilities Act or FMLA may cover their leave. Certainly, give your employees the paperwork and have them take it to their physicians. Some short-term disability plans cover these types of leave as well. But if your employee doesn't qualify for any of that, it's generally up to you as to whether to allow the leave. 

Seriously consider giving the employee the time off they need to regroup and de-stress. It will be cheaper to let someone take a one-month leave of absence than to source, recruit, hire, and train a replacement. Plus, letting employees know that you care about their mental well-being is a boon for employee loyalty.

And if your stress level is becoming unmanageable, remember that your business will survive if you take a few days off. Take care of yourself.