Workplace Stress

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Guidance and Tips for Employers

Workplaces can have many stressors. Issues in the workplace can exacerbate the risk of experiencing mental health challenges. Combined, these stressors can make it more difficult for workers to get their tasks done; threaten their productivity, happiness, and well-being; and lead to burnout. Because of the many potential stressors employees may be experiencing, a comprehensive approach is needed to address stressors throughout the community, and employers can be part of the solution. More than 85% of employees surveyed in 2021 by the American Psychological Association reported that actions from their employer would help their mental health.

The goal is to find ways to alleviate or remove stressors in the workplace to the greatest extent possible, build coping and resiliency supports, and ensure that people who need help know where to turn. Reducing workplace stress benefits everyone across an organization. It can improve morale and lead to increased productivity and better focus, fewer workplace injuries, fewer sick days, and improved physical health (e.g., lower blood pressure, stronger immune system). All these factors can also lead to reduced turnover among an employer’s workforce.

In fact, the World Health Organization estimate that for every dollar U.S. employers spend treating common mental health issues, they receive a return of $4 in improved health and productivity. Employers can make a difference when it comes to helping their staff manage stress. Key things they can do include:

  • Be aware and acknowledge that people can carry an emotional load that is unique to their own circumstances. They may be experiencing heightened levels of loneliness, isolation, uncertainty, grief, and stress; and some may face additional demands, such as parents caring for children or elderly household members; and those with existing mental health or substance use challenges.
  • Identify factors are making it harder for workers to get their jobs done and determine if adjustments can be made.
  • Show empathy. Ensure workers that 1) they are not alone, 2) their employer understands the stress they are under, 3) there is no shame in feeling anxious, and 4) asking for help is important. Employers can reassure employees they are open and receptive to discussions about employees’ work stress, by creating a safe and trustworthy space.
  • Provide access to coping and resiliency resources, workplace and leave flexibilities without penalty, or other supportive networks and services. Research from the American Psychological Association suggests 50 % of employees find that a lack of paid time off or sick leave has a negative impact on stress levels at work.

The following resources provide guidance to help employers alleviate workplace stress and support mental health.

OSHA Resources

Resources Provided by Other Organizations