Employee Stress Level & Performance: How to Help Your Team Thrive

08.02.2022 Sara Brasfield3 min

Recent surveys show that the U.S. workforce is particularly overwhelmed by stress at the moment. A survey conducted by the American Psychological Association found that 87 percent of adults feel that they have faced a constant stream of crises over the last two years, which has compounded the stress they carry into their roles as employees. Seventy-three percent of those adults said they are “overwhelmed” by the number of crises currently facing the world.

Meanwhile, 63 percent of U.S. adults report that the current economic climate in America has become a “significant” form of stress, compared to only 46 percent in 2019.

Even when stress is not directly work-related, it can still have an impact on employee performance. For businesses, these high levels of stress can affect employee morale and the company’s bottom line if not addressed through proactive measures aimed at supporting employees to better manage this stress—and improve on-the-job performance as a result.

If you’re already noticing the adverse effects of stress on your employees, there are steps your organization can take to buoy employees through this difficult time. Here are some practical strategies to avoid employee burnout and the business disruptions it can cause.

Want to hear more about creating a place to work that attracts and retains talent? Check out our recent webinar on this topic.

1. Find New Ways to Provide Flexibility

The pandemic already provided an important business lesson in adopting flexible policies and practices to support employees facing new challenges in their personal lives. Remote work arrangements and flexible schedules have been integral in supporting employees while allowing businesses to maintain continuity and minimize disruptions.

That flexibility continues to be important for many employees dealing with lingering pandemic disruptions or other sources of stress in their personal life. Maintaining flexible work arrangements can minimize the amount of PTO employees must use to stay home with sick kids, for example. Other strategies, such as condensed workweeks or even dropping down to less-than-full-time—even temporarily—may be valued forms of flexibility that reduce churn and improve employee performance.

2. Provide Clear Expectations Around Performance Expectations, Policies, and Support Resources

Flexibility and expanded support resources can be great tools to support your employees’ mental health, but these strategies need to be clearly communicated so that workers understand what resources are available to them. Similarly, job and performance expectations must be easily understood so that workers can effectively balance their job performance with their personal wellness.

With that in mind, employers should document in writing any accommodations they offer for flexible work arrangements, and detail the support resources available to them through the company. Performance review methods and metrics should be identified so that workers understand how they’re being evaluated, and any policy changes should be announced through company-wide emails or communications, as well as documented in any relevant employee handbook.

3. Celebrate Milestones

Small achievements can have a big impact on employee morale. Even when employee stress isn’t work-related, small celebrations of milestones—ranging from work anniversaries to something as simple as employee birthdays—can foster a more supportive, sociable and joyful work environment that can, at the very least, offer a distraction and an escape from real-world stressors.

4. Improve Career Development and Training Opportunities

While older employees may worry about the economy’s potential impact on their target retirement age, younger employees may fear that a shrinking economy may reduce their opportunities to advance in their career, stunting both their career development and their long-term earning potential.

Employers can combat this by investing in career development opportunities that help workers at any stage of their careers to expand their skill-sets and cultivate a professional background that will help them realize their full potential.

5. Relax Performance Expectations to Avoid Burnout—and Improve Performance Over Time

When it comes time to evaluate your employees, it may not be realistic to expect stressed, exhausted workers to maintain the same level of productivity and quality of work as in the past. In some cases, pushing to maintain the same performance expectations as before could actually accelerate burnout, leading to worse employee performance, increased churn, and an overall long-term loss of productivity.

In the short term, your company may be better off relaxing some of those expectations and cutting employees a break if their job performance isn’t meeting the level of years’ past. Use performance evaluations to discuss the stress they’ve been experiencing as of late. Distinguish between work-related stress and other types of stress to better understand how your business can better support employees and elevate their job performance in the long run.

With a hot job market creating tough competition among employers, strong support and resources for your employees can provide a key advantage in convincing top talent to join your team. A digital advertising partner can help your recruiting advertisements deliver the messaging that resonates with today’s job seekers. Contact us today to find out how we can help.

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About the Author

Sara Brasfield

Sara is the Content Marketing Manager for Cox Media’s corporate team in Atlanta, with a passion for writing and delivering relevant insights for advertisers. With more than seven years of experience in B2B marketing, Sara aims to help Cox Media’s current and future clients connect with their customers find new and unique ways to grow their business. Outside of the (now virtual!) office, Sara loves spending time running, reading and supporting her favorite teams (Go Braves & Gamecocks!).

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