Stress has become the silent killer of employee health and productivity, both physically as well as mentally. Nearly half of American workers report that their jobs are extremely stressful. Reducing stress levels in the workplace is essential for your organization to operate and will benefit everyone involved.

11 Unique Ways for Reducing Stress Levels in the Workplace

Key Reasons for Reducing Stress Levels in the Workplace

The list is very long of conditions and ill health caused by and associated with workplace stress.

  • high blood pressure
  • obesity
  • cardiovascular disease
  • strokes
  • back pain
  • gastrointestinal disorders
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • substance abuse

With these attendant health effects, workplace stress: reduces employee productivity, increases absenteeism and presenteeism, increases the number of days taken off work for doctor visits, and increases healthcare costs incurred by employers. Workplace stress is also linked to higher accident and injury rates and higher turnover rates, both of which increase company costs.

RELATED: How Wellness Programs Increase Employee Retention in the Workplace

Stress Management in the Workplace

If the stress of your employees is not addressed or supported in healthy ways, you’re going to spend too much time putting out fires and dealing with turn over than actually impacting the business for good. Incorporating stress management into your wellness program is vital.

Ironically, it can be stressful just to try and figure out how to de-stress or keep your team stress free. So we’ve compiled a full list of ideas to help decrease stress for the health risks previously discussed, and to help start changing the culture around stress management.

Offer Chair Massages at Work Events

At least once a week, there should be an opportunity for your employees to signup for a quick chair massage. Just five minutes of this from a licensed therapist can completely change the state of being for someone for the rest of the day.

Massage Chairs for Reducing Stress Levels in the Workplace

Tack it onto the back of a big meeting or training taking place. Ensure multiple massage chairs are available for any social or health related company events. You may not need to pay a massage therapist at all. They may be willing to come in for an hour, help a handful of people, and then end up getting long term clients if you’re willing to let them sell or promote their businesses.

RELATED: 10 Tips to Implement Mindfulness in the Workplace 2023 Update

Encourage Stress Relief Breaks

Two or three times a day, have a standard that allows your people to do a bit more than just a ten minute bathroom break. Let them sit in a dedicated quiet space for mindfulness or meditation. Provide maps or ideas for walking paths getting them outside of their work area. Let them close their office doors and nap for half an hour.

If possible, provide an exercise space with gym equipment, or have quick classes with an instructor, such as yoga or cardio. Maybe a small library with books and movies to indulge in, or a full kitchen that allows people to enjoy cooking their lunch or a treat for the whole office. The key is to provide the opportunity for people to take time for themselves and decompress in a way they enjoy.

The key is to provide the opportunity for people to take time for themselves and decompress in a way they enjoy.

RELATED: 50 Office Challenge Ideas Including Office Fitness Challenges

Volunteer to Take Shelter Animals for a Walk is Great for Reducing Stress Levels in the Workplace

Animals do a lot to calm anxiety and decrease depression in struggling individuals. See if you can arrange a group of volunteers to visit your local shelter and spend time with the cats and dogs. Even just caring for them, sitting and talking with them, can do wonders as well. Many people even use animals for their own therapy.

Working alongside your community shelters to provide any needed support can be a major help to reducing stress levels in the workplace. It will get their mind off of the work at hand, and serve another creature in need.

reducing stress with therapy animals

Have a Sense of Humor

Encourage laughter on a daily basis. Laughter releases key hormones and endorphins quickly and can impact someone for the better without much effort. Have small competitions to encourage friendly banter. Or invite clean comedians to hang out during lunch breaks and give a small performance.

Post cartoons and jokes around the work area that related to the line of work you’re all in. After all, laughter is the best medicine, especially for stress relief.

Teach Computer Break Tips

If your team involves anyone sitting in front of a computer all day, be sure to talk about ways to help their bodies take breaks. Train them on stretches for their necks, shoulders, and upper body to do throughout the day. Provide times so they can close their eyes or look away for a few minutes every single hour.

If anyone would prefer a standing desk or a non-traditional exercise ball chair, do your best to get them setup how they want. Give the option for blue-light filter glasses to reduce eye strain and headaches from screen fatigue. Have meetings or huddles that don’t require screens or phones in the room. That last one may be quite difficult, but not only will it improve the attention of everyone present, they’ll have a natural break from technology too.

Having meetings or huddles that don’t allow phones in the room may be quite difficult. But not only will it improve the attention of everyone present, they’ll have a natural break from technology too.

RELATED: 19 Healthy Work Environment Examples to Upgrade Your Employees’ Physical Well-Being

Self Help Books and Resources

Near your break room, have a small library with self-help books and resources on a variety of topics. These can be borrowed by employees and returned. Have multiple copies of popular items and more options than just the typical weight loss or financial fitness books.

Survey your people and ask what they’d like access to. It’s likely easier than them searching online to purchase something, or spend the time visiting their local library when it’s already available somewhere they frequent most days. Include topics on:

  • finances
  • investing
  • estate planning
  • taxes
  • weight loss
  • healthy eating (variety of diets or physical needs)
  • mental wellness
  • emotional well-being
  • marriage and relationships
  • family dynamics
  • parenting
  • exercise (lots of options here)
  • career advancement
  • interpersonal skills
  • overcoming challenges
  • motivation and inspiration
  • goal setting and achievement
reading breaks for stress management

Community Volunteer Activities Are Great for Reducing Stress Levels in the Workplace

Taking a Friday afternoon off and going as a group with some of your volunteer employees to a service setting is a great way to wrap up a stressful work week and setup your employees’ weekends for the better.

Get ideas from staff as to what local organizations or groups they have a connection with or desire to contribute to. Contact those organizations or non-profits and schedule times to come assist, or ask what they are most in need of. These could be:

  • Boys and Girls clubs
  • Soup kitchens or food pantries
  • Homeless shelters
  • Schools or educational centers
  • Orphanages or battered family centers
  • Public libraries and parks
  • Veterinary hospitals or Humane Societies
  • Churches and religious sites
  • Historical organizations and visitor centers

You can even use websites that list local volunteer opportunities no matter where you’re at. Don’t worry about sticking with just one because you can have a list of volunteering scheduled at different times throughout the year.

Service or helping others in need has a blessed way of changing people’s perspectives and releasing stress while creating new healthy connections. You can develop a relationship with many helpful organizations and become a regular sponsor that will help everyone all around.

Service or helping others in need has a blessed way of changing people’s perspectives and releasing stress while creating new healthy connections.

RELATED: 7 Reasons Every Worksite Should Offer An Environmental Wellness Program

Mentoring Children

Working with the younger generations can bring a lot of joy to your employees when they’re able to teach what they know to someone up and coming. This isn’t for everyone, but the spark that lights up in children’s eyes when they learn something new can lift even the depressed and despondent adult.

Many of the volunteer organizations listed earlier may provide chances for your employees to work alongside mentoring children. Even programs or spaces can be setup inside of your own organization that supports mentoring children as well. Incorporate ideas like:

  • Tag-along hours where the children get to experience an hour of an employee’s workday and contribute.
  • Work with local schools on student career projects where they get to interview someone doing their desired job.
  • Tutoring young elementary kids on simple topics that can be done via zoom for 15 minutes after their school day is over.
  • Have a weekly afternoon where groups of children come in with their teachers and tour the facilities or get to see unique things your organization offers.
  • Long term opportunities for an entire school year where an employee is paired up with a single student and they set goals together and work on projects for a few hours once a month.
  • Combine one of your community service activities with a handful of tween-aged kids and then celebrate together afterwards with ice cream.

RELATED: Ways to Boost Employee Morale in an Organization

mentoring children is good for reducing stress levels at work

Always Taking Meal Breaks is Necessary for Reducing Stress Levels in the Workplace

This should hopefully be a no-brainer, but unfortunately, many high stress work settings create an expectation that working through lunch is preferred. The pressure of getting major projects done to appease deadlines starts to overrule the basic needs of employees needing energy and sustenance. Let’s face it, no one can be in tip top shape for productivity if they haven’t eaten.

Ensure that your schedules, quantity of workers, policies, and culture practices include sufficient time and coverage for meal breaks. Most states legally require 30 minutes for every 8 hours of work. Managers and supervisors should treat their people with respect and assurance that their time away from work to eat is valuable.

No one should be made to feel ashamed that they took the time to have a meal during the work day. Quelling hunger and powering productivity with nutritious meals is foundational for reducing stress levels in the workplace.

“Call A Friend” Campaign

Being able to connect with a friend or family member and change the conversation away from coworkers or customers can provide needed relief. Sometimes people need to not only vent in a healthy way, but just catching up, ask for encouragement, or hear the voice of someone they value in their life.

Now, this isn’t allowing your employees to simply be on their phones all day, distracted with personal conversations and messages. This is being okay with them having a personal life during moments of down time in order to not feel stressed about outside relationships that can bleed over into the workplace.

  • Let them keep their phone on themselves as long as it does not disrupt their work duties.
  • Have a corner in the break room or office where employees can have a moment of privacy to make the quick phone calls they need to, so that everyone knows not to bother anyone there.
  • Challenge your people to reach out to a friend or someone they haven’t spoken to in a long time. If anyone wants to share the outcome, let them express what they learned and how it’s helped them.
  • If possible, designate a block of time where everyone in your workplace can connect with family members or friends if needed, so that no meetings or calls are scheduled during that time.

RELATED: How To Improve Job Satisfaction In Your Organization

Secret Pals

Similar to Secret Santa during the holidays, employees can anonymously draw the name of a coworker and dedicate acts of service or kindness to them. This doesn’t have to be done just during the holidays or in the middle of a service campaign. It can be a regular activity done every other month or around significant work events.

Be clear that things done for Secret Pals should not have to require excessive time or money investment. This is to bring a little joy to the givers as well as the receivers. It should not bring about extra stress because of expectations that suggest forced commitment. It should be light, fun, exciting, and give your employees a moment to get out of their heads and do something kind of someone they are around on a regular basis.

Next Steps for Reducing Stress Levels in the Workplace

There are so many factors that go into stress both from people’s home life as well as their work life. You can’t fix your employees stress in just one go or hope that a single attempt will solve the problem entirely. Reducing stress levels in the workplace takes continuous effort, planning, and attention.

Having an aspect of your wellness program include stress management is a necessity. So where to start? Schedule a free demo and one of our WellSteps guides will show you exactly how to put this in place for your organization, and not cause you anymore stress! Reducing stress levels shouldn’t be stressful, so let us help you with that.

About The Author

Dr. Steve Aldana

Dr. Aldana is the CEO of Wellsteps, a worksite wellness solution that leads the nation in wellness program deployment and engagement. Dr. Aldana authored over 75 scientific papers and 7 books on health risk management, healthy living, and health promotion programs. He has given over 350 keynote speeches across the U.S. on the ability of good nutrition and regular exercise to prevent, arrest, and reverse many chronic diseases.