3 employer strategies to reduce employee stress

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Work-related stress was a very real issue for many employees even before the outbreak of the coronavirus, but the pandemic has doubled rates of stress in the workplace. More than 60% of employees say that they are experiencing greater stress than before the pandemic started, up from 30% pre-pandemic, according to research from MetLife.

“Going into the pandemic, one in three employees was already feeling stressed and burned out. That is just going to continue to magnify,” Tracey Ferstler, assistant vice president, head of return to health at MetLife, said at DMEC’s 2020 virtual annual conference.

The workplace has changed significantly since the start of the pandemic: more than 40% of employees are currently working from home, according to research from Stanford University. Additionally, they are working 2 hours more per day on average, according to data from NordVPN, a virtual private network provider.

Employers must increase their support and communicate the benefits they have to help employees through these challenging times, Ferstler said.

“Continue to stay in close contact with your workforce, communicate, and ask if the things you're deploying are working and if they're not, be open to adjusting them,” Ferstler said. “This doesn't have to be perfect, but workforces will appreciate that something is being deployed and that as an organization you're trying to support them as much as possible.”

To that end, instituting more flexibility, offering financial planning benefits, and providing mental health resources are three pivotal ways to reduce stress and maintain a productive workforce.

Expand flexible work hours
Among employees who work from home, 80% say that they enjoy spending time with family during the work week, the MetLife research found. Giving employees more flexibility with their hours can further help them balance their commitments outside of work.

“Thinking about things like school schedules and different personal time commitments, those types of flexible arrangements can really be a stress reliever for much of your workforce,” Ferstler says.
Financial Planning Benefits
Personal finance is currently the top source of stress for employees, according to the MetLife research. Additionally, 73% of employees cited a finance-related reason as a source of stress, including stock market volatility, threats to long-term savings and threats to income. Employers should ensure that they have Roth or 401(k) retirement plans in place.

“This type of planning and benefit offering can really make a difference for employees to feel a sense of security, and make sure that they're planning well for their family,” Ferstler says.
Mental Health Resources
Employees whose employers offer mental health support reported better mental wellness than those whose employers do not provide such support, according to the MetLife research. More specifically, 78% of employees with employers that offer mental health resources said that they have good mental health, compared to 65% of those with employers that do not offer such support.

“Mental wellness can be everything from formal EAP services to internal meetings with team captains to picking up the phone and calling to see how somebody's doing,” Ferstler says. “Employees will remember that, and it manifests itself in their productivity for your company.”
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