According to research, the percentage of Americans who are stressed at work is ridiculously high, and it’s only getting higher.

According to the CDC’s National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, studies have found the number of Americans who are “extremely stressed at work” range between 29 percent to 40 percent. Am I the only one who thinks that’s insane?

Well, insane and unhealthy. Work stress has significant health consequences, ranging from the relatively benign— think colds and flus—to more serious issues like heart disease and metabolic syndrome.

So, for health’s sake, people should get different jobs, right? Well, that’s the thing; because stress at work is so common, finding a low-stress alternative may be difficult or impossible for many people. A more realistic choice would be to simply adopt more effective strategies to reduce stress at work.

You may not be a trained therapist, but as a leader, you can reduce workplace stress in a big way by creating a healthy workplace environment.  Aside from helping you reduce your own stress, creating a healthy work environment also helps you cultivate a positive and productive business culture – and if you’re not new to this blog, you know that’s key to your success.

In an article from The American Institute of Stress, 46 percent of employees attribute their workload as their main cause of stress, while 28 percent reported “people issues” as the culprit. Other stress factors included juggling work and personal lives at 20 percent and job security at 6 percent.

Of course, there are many other aspects of your or your employees’ careers that may be stressful. Other factors contributing to workplace stress include:

  • low salaries,
  • poor peer support,
  • limited prospects for growth or advancement and;
  • the task at work that is not engaging or challenging.

The bottom line? Excessive stress can interfere with your employees’ productivity and performance – and it can impact their physical and emotional health.

A great leader is one who not only is aware of the problem but is actively working to alleviate it wherever he or she can. If you’re ready to create a lower-stress culture at your business, here are some ways to do it.

Set clear (or clearer!) goals for your team members.

You’re probably tired of hearing it from me (and others), but it is about time for leaders to set clear goals for their teams. Not knowing or understanding what is expected of you as an employee is a stressful place to be. As you strategically set clear goals and communicate them effectively, your team members gain instant clarity about what is expected of them. It’s so much easier to focus when you understand the task at hand, rather than expending energy to figure it out yourself. And of course, when your employees are left in the dark, they could wind up on the wrong track, or end up spinning around in a circle – and both scenarios mean valuable time lost. Clear goals give your team members peace of mind because they know what they should focus on and why.

Offer a flexible work environment.

Like it or not, everyone is looking for flexibility at work. Consider allowing your team members flexibility by not monitoring them all the time, so long as their work is completed by specific deadlines of course. Remember that salary is not everything; As employees, your team is looking not only for a job that pays the bills but also works with their lives.

Allow those who have children to come into the office early and leave early to pick their children up. Or allow working from home once a week so team members can experience a change of environment once a while. Don’t think your team wants greater flexibility? I challenge you to ask them.

Stay organized.

Even if you’re a naturally disorganized person, planning in order to stay organized can greatly decrease workplace stress. Being organized with your time means less rushing in the morning to avoid being late or rushing to get out at the end of the day. Keeping yourself organized means avoiding the negative effects of clutter and creates an environment that allows you to be more efficient.

Encourage employees to move their bodies.

The mind needs an occasional break, and a great way to get it is through exercise. If you want to reduce stress in the workplace, encourage your team members to take time from their day to exercise at the gym, take a walking lunch or meeting or try a yoga class. Movement – even in short spurts – help the mind and body gain greater focus and clarity of thought. Plus, physical activity provides a way for your staff to learn how to organize and pace themselves at work.

Try setting some quick, 5-minute reminders for your team members after every 2 hours of constant staring at the computer. Get them off their chair and on their feet to stretch their bodies and rest their eyes by looking out of the window.

Forget multitasking. 

Multitasking was once heralded as a fantastic way to maximize one’s time and get more done in a day…Then people started realizing that when they had a phone in their ear and were making calculations at the same time, their speed and accuracy (not to mention sanity) suffered. There is a certain kind of frazzled feeling that comes from splitting one’s focus that doesn’t work well for most people. Rather than multitasking, try a new strategy known as chunking, which involves breaking down tasks into more manageable pieces.

Foster workplace recognition.

Another way to reduce stress in the workplace is by encouraging workplace recognition. Employees who feel they have a positive personal rapport with their management are more likely to be engaged. And hey, we all feel more appreciated when our work gets noticed.

Great companies know that the employees are the heart of the business. However, a great leader should recognize the efforts of their team members and appreciate what they have done for the company.

Listen to music on the drive home.

Ok, this may just be me, but listening to music, for me, is really an effective way to relieve stress after work. Combating the stress of a long day at work with your favorite tunes on the return commute can make you less stressed when you get home and more prepared to interact with the people in your personal life.

Breaking it down

As a great leader, you need to reassure your team members that you’re aware of their stress and working to reduce it. Remember, employees shouldn’t sacrifice their health or happiness over their jobs.

Here is a quick recap of the simplest ways to reduce stress in the workplace:

  • Set clear goals for your employees
  • Encourage mindfulness (not multitasking)
  • Offer a flexible work environment
  • Encourage employees to move their bodies
  • Foster workplace recognition

These simple steps can help you reduce stress in the workplace and not only improve your team members’ lives, but also create team members who are loyal and enjoy coming to work each day. As a great leader, you have the power to create a less stressful workplace for everyone – including yourself.