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April 20, 2017

Stress WordsIf there is one thing a small business owner knows about its stress.  There never seems to be enough money, enough time to get everything done, enough resources, enough customers.  We worry about everything.  We thrive on it but it can be very stressful.

These days life for everyone seems to be more stressful than for previous generations.  Often we just accept it without even thinking very much about it.  But stress can be dangerous for people and it can be expensive for business owners.

Some of the most common sources of stress are work related.  A company downsize suddenly means an increase in workload; there are office politics, power plays and jockeying for positions and promotions; technology threatens to take away jobs as employers look to automate as many positions as possible; people work longer hours and have longer commutes to get there.

Of course there are stressful situations in our personal lives as well.  Child care issues, possibly caring for aging parents or a failing spouse.  And one of the biggest sources of stress is that elusive work/life balance we hear so much about but never seem to achieve.

As we’ve heard in recent years, stress can have negative health effects.  Many of us are aware of things like heart attacks, stroke, and ulcers or other stomach/digestive issues.  But there are other health issues that may not be as well-known.  There are mental health issues like depression, anxiety and even panic attacks.  It’s possible that stress can be a cause of problems such as overeating or alcoholism.  Increased stress can lead to a suppressed or decreased immune system leading to other and/or more frequent illnesses.  According to some estimates, up to 60% of missed work days can be attributed to stress.  It’s possible that 75% to 90% of medical visits are due to stress related conditions.

I have seen estimates that claim the negative effects of stress cost businesses anywhere from $190 billion to $300 billion annually.  Not possible you say?  If you’re a business owner or manager you know that there is a cost attached to things like high turnover, increased absenteeism and decreased employee engagement.  All these can affect your bottom line through recruitment costs, lower sales, lost production and fixing mistakes made by employees not working at top capacity.  And we all know that increased medical costs lead to increased health insurance premiums.





It behooves the business owner or manager to, at the very least, be aware of stress levels and, at most, to work with employees to keep stress in check.  There are some things that can be done regularly and pretty easily:  You can keep employees informed about changes in the workplace, whether due to automation, promotions, downsizing or even due to a new technology they might need to master.

Try to increase employee engagement.  It’s no secret that a happy, engaged employee is a more productive employee.  Sometimes simple things, like team building or employee recognition, will do the trick.

Everyone needs time away to recharge so make vacation time a priority.  There are some companies that offer a bonus to employees who plan a trip abroad or that make it a requirement that employees take their full vacation time.  If this is beyond your capability keep it simpler.  Ask your employees what vacation plans they have.  When an employee returns from vacation,  ask them how it went or what they did.  And make it easy to schedule vacation time, not a hassle.

Recognizing stress and making a few changes can go a long way.  You can create a culture that values employees and counteract some of the negative effects stress will have on your business.


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