Rising gas prices, murmurings about the economy, all those foreclosures — the news out there these days is a bit stressful. Sure, as a business owner and entrepreneur you are stressed with all the negative media, but what about your staff?
According to the American Institute of Stress (yes, there is even an association for stress, folks!) work stress costs employers an estimated $300 billion a year in absenteeism, turn-over, lower productivity, and more.
So what to do? Well, first recognize that often work stress is linked back to tight deadlines, unclear job responsibilities, long, unproductive meetings, micromanagement and other structural challenges in the company. Make sure you are addressing those items first and foremost. Once you feel confident about the structural changes, consider some of these appreciated and low-cost perks to strengthen staff moral and motivate individuals.
1. Offer flexible work schedules. Many employees, especially those with families, may be stressed by the time they arrive to work with all the preparation they do in the mornings to get their families off to school and work for the day. Recognize this and allow employees to select a start and end time to their day that is consistent with the needs of the company. What is better? To have Jane rush in at 8:00 in a state or disarray, or at 8:20 with a smile on her face and a calm disposition?
2. Update your Employee Bulletin Board with Stress-Freeing Financial Information. Low-cost housing, free checking accounts, resonable child-care, coupons and discounts, social work help, landlord tenant help, and other information and affordable services for staff in financial crisis can be very helpful.
3. Give employees time off to take family members (or themselves) to doctor and dentist appointments. Just the fact that family members are sick can be a stress and can lead to more employee absenteeism. Whenever possible, let employees take some time during their day to make their important visits to health professionals.
4. Cater an occasional breakfast, lunch or afternoon snack. This can be as elaborate or as simple as you would like it to be. After all, who can be crabby while enjoying milk and chocolate cookies for an afternoon snack?
5. Introduce an employee newsletter with “hero stories” recognizing employees for accomplishments in or outside of work. Even if you only have a handful of employees, offer a monthly or weekly newsletter to both inform and inspire your employees. Include photos and positive stories about people’s accomplishments (with their OK, of course). This can serve to build confidence within individuals, and also help your employees get to know and appreciate one another.
Let’s face it, happy and motivated employees are more loyal and productive. They share their contentment with the company, and that spreads to other employees. Negative vibes can be contagious, but then again, so can smiles. You might be surprised by the results.