How to Tackle Workplace Stress in Westchester County

Adobe Stock / Studio Romantic

Two local experts reveal what causes workplace stress, how leaders can recognize it, and what businesses can do to address it.

With increasing demands due to the Great Resignation, expectations of round-the-clock connectivity, and a shifting work environment, employee stress is running high. Whether it is through wellness initiatives, perks, or a change of culture, business leaders can do plenty to ameliorate this strain and pave the road to a more productive workplace.

According to owner/HR consultant at Rebilo HR, Diana Barrera, the causes of workplace stress are legion. “Employees are facing unmanageable workloads, so one of the primary causes of stress is one’s workload not being reasonable,” says Barrera, alluding to one of the reasons behind the Great Resignation. “There are other sources of stress as well: lack of role clarity, lack of communication and support from a manager, and unreasonable time pressures.”

workplace stress
Adobe Stock / Studio Romantic

Alexa Oliveri, founder/owner of Alexa Oliveri International LLC and The Abundant Business Collective, as well a former 914INC. Wunderkind, feels technology and a company’s culture also contribute to this strain. “Now, we have our computers in our pockets, so this idea of instant reply, instant availability, causes stress,” explains Oliveri. “People take vacations, but then they have their phones on them, and they may want to look at that email. So are they really on vacation?”

Diane Barrera
Courtesy of Rebilo HR

“If an employee is concerned that they have received a timeline or amount of work that is not reasonable, they should raise their concerns before it becomes an issue.”
—Diane Barrera
Owner/HR Consultant at Rebilo HR

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While the causes of stress may be apparent, how can business leaders spot it in their own workplaces? “Employees may feel like they are just another number; they may feel lost and wonder if they are being heard,” notes Oliveri. “Maybe they don’t show up to work, or even worse, they show up to work, but there is no enthusiasm or real production.” Barrera adds that signs of stress and burnout include “irritability or hostility, lower quality of work or decreased performance in people who used to be good performers, a negative outlook, [workers] suddenly being absent, and even physical symptoms, like chest pains or panic attacks.”

Workplace stress
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Predictably, employee stress can have a devastating effect on companies, beyond just a hit to productivity. “Employees experiencing stress that is not improving for long periods of time are likely to look for a better work environment — and the market continues to be hot; they know there are options out there — so companies can lose good performers,” notes Barrera.

What can business leaders do to stem this issue? Oliveri says that any changes need to involve both junior employees and senior executives. “Companies can offer a discount on gym memberships, because moving our bodies and being healthy is super important to our mental health and productivity,” says Oliveri. “But it’s so important that if it’s being offered, leadership needs to be involved in those classes. Is the office truly stopping for 45 minutes to get grounded and relax so that they can go back into their spaces and be as successful as they can be?”

by Lili Breton Photography

“Employees may feel like they are just another number; they may feel lost and wonder if they are being heard.”
—Alex Oliveri
Founder/Owner of Alexa Oliveri International LLC and The Abundant Business Collective

Oliveri adds that leaders can also reduce employee stress with “team-building time, events outside of the office, fostering community among coworkers, and making sure the company’s values are brought to life and are not just something listed in an employee handbook.” She adds that employees are seeking action, not words, in seeking out supportive environments. “Work/life balance and mindfulness have been more prevalent the last couple of years in the working world, which is a beautiful thing, but now it’s time to actually live this instead of just talking about it.”

Barrera echoes this sentiment. “There are several things that companies can do. One is have reasonable workloads for employees. Make sure the scope of a job is realistic,” Barrera says. “Another one is offering employee-assistance programs. [Companies] can also give employees access to mental health apps and webinars, create flexible work-arrangement programs, and be genuine supports of work/life balance initiatives.”

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Additionally, Barrera notes that employees can also be advocates for themselves. “If an employee is concerned that they have received a timeline or amount of work that is not reasonable, they should raise their concerns before it becomes an issue,” says Barrera. “Whether you need more resources or more people or more time, raise your hand and say, ‘I think we need to modify this.’ Be an advocate for common-sense workloads and timelines.”

Looking ahead, reducing office stress really boils down to providing employees with the trust and volition they need to be both effective workers and lead gratifying personal lives. “It’s about employee autonomy and empowering your workers and team members to make the decisions that work best for their lives,” explains Oliveri. “That is the trend: empowerment and trust. When the employees feel they are trusted, they are going to want to do more for the company because they feel valued.”

Related: The Calming Guide to Reducing Stress and Anxiety in Westchester

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