Can a boss help reduce stress and anxiety at the office?

Four yellow smiley face balls in a row showing different emotions

Workplace stress and office anxiety has unexpected consequences for any employer as well as their employees. Solving problems that cause anxiety requires engaged and helpful management who are willing to act on the problems workers face to make the office, warehouse, or job site a less stressful place.

Mediate Early and Often

Arguably the greatest detriment to a harmonious work environment is employee friction and disagreement. Employees who dislike their coworkers are prone to stress and anxiety, and may not even feel the desire to come into work. Workers who feel attacked or put upon are more likely to call out sick, to find other work, or to simply become far less productive. A good employer can reduce that stress by intervening when problems arise instead of leaving it to employees to resolve everything themselves.

While it’s true that some employee disagreements aren’t easy to solve and some workers aren’t going to get along, getting in the middle redirects the stressor and makes the employees feel heard. Even if the situation has no easy resolution, knowing that your boss has your back helps to bring a sense of confidence and wellbeing to your workers. On that note…

Rehabilitate or Eliminate Sources of Friction

Every office has a problem child. Even yours probably has someone who is just a bit too gossipy and far too willing to see the worst in their colleagues. By and large, that kind of focus on the negative can be fixed, even in the worst employee offenders. With proper intervention from a leader, a disruptive employee can get their mind on their work and away from someone else’s personal life or their work ethic, helping to reduce office stress for employees that constantly feel “targeted”.

Don’t leave your employees to suffer under the constant criticism of a middle manager who belittles them, or a coworker who constantly makes snide comments about their dress. Intervene and show your employees and management that you expect a professional and kind environment, not one fraught with social toxicity.

Spend Time with your Employees

A great employer regularly spends time “in the trenches” with their employees. The easiest way to nip workplace stress and anxiety in the bud is to catch it in action. If you never see it, you will never be able to fix it, or at least not until it gets to a boiling point where employees are knocking down your office door to assist with their stressors. Employers who are interested in a low anxiety office will have the right balance of working alongside of their employees as well as allowing their employees their own agency to work through problems and issues without someone hovering overhead.

Ditch the Open Office Concept

The early 2010s brought a resurgence of open office floor plans, eliminating cubicles and offices in favor of an airy environment. In theory, open office floor plans are supposed to encourage collaboration and offer an atmosphere of increased productivity. In practice, most workers dislike and reject open office plans in favor of their own space. Why?

We’ve already spoken about why open office plans are a bad idea, but in case you needed more information…

The idea that an open environment removes distractions is one many workers dispute. From mouth noises to coughing to humming and tapping, other workers can be a constant plague of diversions from work, causing undue stress and anxiety amongst a swath of employees within their radius. Many employers urge their workers to use headphones, but headphones also eliminate the advantages of an open concept office and put the utility of this floorplan into question.

Along with the damage to employee comfort, open office floor plans are a hothouse for germs, with each sneeze polluting the entire office. Cold and flu season, which might usually lay low one or two people in their closed offices, now has the potential to put half your workforce out of commission.

Lastly, employees in open-office floor plan environments don’t have anywhere to “hide” from highly stressful situations such as a toxic coworker, boss, or manager. Even if offices only have thin dividers, these walls can provide much needed anxietal reprieve for your employees. Rather than running to hide in the bathroom, employees can simply duck down and focus on their work.

Give your employees back their privacy and comfort, and protect your business from a worker shortage when the sniffles sweep your office.

How do you deal with workplace stress and anxiety in the office? Let us know in the comments below.

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