Curb stress in the office: Allow employees to stay at home
The global recession was responsible for major changes in many work environments across the world. Restructuring, an increase in the expectation placed on employee capacity, and the need to stay ahead of the pack for job security were huge stressors for employees in the years following the recession. Even though the business environment has stabilised since the global downturn, stress levels related to work are still on the rise, which doesn’t bode well for productivity.
Stress factors at work
One of the major causes of stress at work is the inability for outdated ways of doing business – including the use of rigid hierarchical structures – to be replaced with more efficient and innovative business processes. Fast-paced business environments don’t seem to take into consideration the fact that employees also need to fulfill other roles that pertain to family and social structures, with more and more demand being placed on employees to utilise their time outside of business hours to fulfill work obligations. Commuting time and distances are also major stress factors, with employees arriving at work in an existing state of stress only exacerbating stress levels on the job.
Symptoms of high stress levels
Irritability, fatigue, insomnia, and low immunity are common among stressed-out employees. More troubling, however, are the effects of chronic stress, which causes the development of far more serious illnesses such as diabetes, heart conditions, high blood pressure, and asthma, amongst others. Not only do sufferers develop conditions that may well be life-long, but the effects of employees under constant stress will also affect their employers’ bottom line. As employees are forced to take more sick days, productivity is significantly affected. And since those most stressed are the high achieving employees, companies risk losing their stars to a more balanced lifestyle, as more and more employees choose the route of entrepreneurship to escape high stress office environments.
What is the solution to high stress?
Global surveys on highly stressed employees report that stress can be greatly reduced when employees are provided with flexible working hours, telecommuting, and the option of managing their own objectives and goals. Contrary to popular expectation, employees should be trusted with autonomy because the benefits of a telecommuting or flexible workforce far outweigh an employer’s need to keep an eye on his workers.
There are also huge benefits for organisations in that productivity remains high (as employers complete their work in a shorter time to be able to spend more quality family time) and overheads are significantly decreased. Employees who work from home (even for just a portion of the week) don’t use company Internet capacity, electricity, telephone services, or kitchen supplies. Reduced overheads mean increased profit, and companies who allow flexi-time and telecommuting reduce the demand on transport infrastructure.
Employers won’t lose control of the stay-at-home workforce. Weekly meetings and touch-points can form a mandatory part of introducing flexi-time or even hot-desking – this solution to reduced stress and increased productivity is a win-win for everybody.
Article by Ash Brook