By Jimmy Taylor
After two years of non-stop impact from living pandemic lives, it’s no surprise to hear employees are stressed. A Gallup poll found U.S. workers are among the most stressed in the world, with 57% of our teams reporting they face stress, worry, sadness and anger on the job on a daily basis.
In fact, stress in the workplace is now so bad even employee assistance program usage is going up. EAP programs have traditionally been one of the most underutilized company benefits offered. Hartford Insurance reports 70% of employers are seeing an uptick in their EAP usage.
Companies are trying to respond to this employee need. Towers Watson says 86% of employers surveyed indicate helping employees deal with mental health, stress and burnout is a top priority for their organization this year.
As HR professionals, we see the impact of stress on our teams every day. It motivates us to press on and find ways to help our organizations thrive while still meeting the needs of our people. Those sometimes competing priorities are taking their toll, HR professionals are not immune to the stress of the workplace. A Paychex study showed 70% of HR leaders say this has been the most challenging time in their career.
What can we do to cope? How can we help our people deal with the stressors?
There is no magic answer. Workloads will stay elevated. The pace of change will continue to increase. The labor shortage and great resignation will be our constant companions for the coming years. However, we can do simple things that will help.
Take care of yourself! We can’t effectively help our teams if we fail to address our own needs. The EAP hotline number that we pass out to our employees will answer our calls as well.
Stay connected. One of the many values of a local SHRM chapter is the camaraderie and support we get from our peers. An African proverb says it well – “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others!” We need the interaction, encouragement, and wisdom from fellow practitioners now, more than ever. Make the time to get out and connect, you will see a difference!
Celebrate the wins. Stopping to celebrate accomplishments, both big and small, is crucial. Stressed individuals are less likely to celebrate accomplishments than others. When we think about and talk about what’s going well our brain rewards us with a shot of dopamine – an important “feel good” chemical. That dopamine serves as a neurotransmitter, sending signals to other neurons that things are good, and all is well. Not only is this good for our body, but it is also an important chemical needed by our brains for hard tasks like creative thinking and problem solving. Being conscious about celebrating interrupts negative spirals of stress and depression.
Say thank-you! When we are busy and stressed it is hard to take the time to say “thanks”. But physicians and psychologist have endless studies on the positive impact consciously counting our blessings has on our both our mental and physical well-being. It causes us to be more optimistic, enjoy better relationships, sleep better, feel less stress…the list goes on and on.
Even a simple act of regularly writing down two our three things we are thankful for just before we go to bed in a “gratitude journal” will have a positive and transformative effect.
What’s more – in this turnover heavy world some have labeled “The Great Resignation” – the simple act of saying thank you may be a key to better employee performance and retention. A recent study of front line health care workers (a group that is facing massive burn-out from the pandemic) published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found some amazing results. The workers who received regular appreciation and gratitude from their patients and their bosses:
- Were significantly more energized on the job and performed better
- Were less likely to leave the job
- Improved their family life by making them better spouses/partners.
In short, the researchers found small acts of gratitude pay shockingly large dividends for people in the workplace and beyond!
It’s a stress filled world of work we enter every day. As HR professionals we can make it better!