8 Manager Tips to Reduce Employee Stress at Work

Manager-Tips-Reduce-Employee-Stress“Workaholism” is spreading in the workplace. A growing percentage of employees consider themselves workaholics and put in more than the expected 40 hours. In the past, workaholism hasn’t received much attention because it's often accepted — and even expected — by most workplace cultures. But it can have damaging effects on employee health and well-being, particularly when you're trying to reduce employee stress at work.


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Work-induced stress isn’t solely an employee’s problem to solve. In fact, managers play an important role in modeling healthy behaviors and even coaching employees to improve productivity and reduce stress.

Here are 8 areas managers can focus on to help reduce or ease the stress levels of their employees.


1. Alleviate heavy workloads.

A heavy workload is physically and emotionally tiring. Simply put, employees have too much on their plates.

    • 51% of employees feel physically drained after an average day’s work a few times a month or more
    • 25% of employees frequently feel emotionally drained after an average day’s work.

Employees have too many tasks, responsibilities, and pressures, and not enough time in their workday to get it all done. They may feel like they need to work long hours to keep up, so it’s important for managers to help set expectations and model behavior. Here are a few ways managers can be better role models.


Remove Obstacles and Clarify Priorities

Start by identifying any obstacles that could be hindering productivity and remove those that are impacting stress the most. Then, focus on eliminating distractions in the office and try to provide any resources your employees might need to be successful. Go one step further and schedule time to meet with your employees regularly to give them clear direction on the highest priorities and what can wait until next week.


Remove Low-Impact Tasks

Is there something your employees are doing that’s not worth the time or effort? Take it off their to-do list. Overloading your employees’ schedules with busy work will only bog them down, leaving them feeling overwhelmed and under-appreciated. Use one-on-one meetings to discover what their goals are and help them accomplish more impactful projects.


Set a Good Example

If you make a habit of not overworking yourself, your employees might follow your lead. Be mindful of your work schedule and workload each week. Emulate a culture where it’s okay to leave work at work and prioritize family, hobbies, or other non-work-related activities.


2. Boost employee career happiness.

The average employee spends 13 years and two months at work. In fact, it’s what we spend the most time doing in our lifetimes (aside from sleeping). Can you imagine spending that much time doing something that makes you unhappy? When employees aren’t happy in their careers, they likely see their job as a burden and stressor, forcing them to sacrifice the things they’d rather be doing.

When employees have to work, they feel they can’t spend time with their family, travel, get a puppy, meet up with friends, or pursue their dreams. Managers can use these tips to uncover these feelings and help motivate their employees to continue achieving their personal and professional goals.


Spot Emotions and Provide an Outlet for Expression

Assess career outlook early on in your employee’s lifecycle. Consider launching new hire surveys at 30, 60, and 90 days to capture their sentiments at different stages. Employees might feel a little anxious or excited when they first start, but how does that change after a few months? Emotions at certain points in their tenure can provide insights into how to improve the employee experience and mitigate talent-risk.


Coach Toward a Fulfilling Career

Continuously challenging employees helps keep the doors open for new opportunities to engage and delight them. Use a variety of mediums like engagement surveys, pulse surveys, one-on-ones, or performance reviews to collect ongoing, real-time feedback about their career goals.


Develop and Grow Employee Skills and Strengths

Your employees have a lot to offer. Spend time uncovering your employees’ strengths and their personal goals for contributing to the organization. Making sure each employee can leverage their strengths will help maximize their individual happiness and your overall team potential. Give employees the opportunity to grow their skill sets through job shadowing, mentoring, or professional development.


3. Improve team relationships.

Stress levels can run high when you don’t like, get along with, trust, or respect the people you’re working with each and every day. Poor relationships with teammates can have multiple negative effects such as anxiety, misalignment, distractions, distrust, and jealousy. Managers can help build better relationships among their teams where honestly and integrity are abundant.


Create a Candid Culture and Approach Conflict Head-On

Make sure employees feel comfortable being open and honest within your team. Conflict among team members will likely happen from time to time. Make sure you handle it immediately, professionally, and transparently.


Provide an Outlet to Give and Receive Feedback

Feedback is a great way to gather important information from your team, as well as improve connection among teams. Allow employees to exchange feedback to boost accountability, reliability, and trust among your team. You can provide constructive feedback when necessary, but being a role model teammate to your peers and direct reports means you are listening to their feedback too.


Facilitate Group Projects and Non-Work Team Events

Your employees spend a lot of time together... working. If you want to improve your team relationships, enable employees to bond and get to know each other outside of work. Give your team opportunities to work together and rely on one another for something other than your sales quota.


4. Improve relationships with employees.

Having a poor relationship with a manager can be a huge cause of employee stress at work. When employees disrespect or distrust their managers (or vice versa), they’re more likely to be unhappy in their careers, let work negatively affect their personal lives, and ultimately leave your organization.

  • When asked to describe a time they felt an especially negative emotion at work, more than 25% of employees surveyed included the words manager, management, supervisor, boss, or leader.

Negative emotions at work can snowball quickly, resulting in even worse behaviors and a toxic environment. Managers can use these tips to reflect and develop the skills needed to handle their employees more professionally.


Ask for Continuous Feedback to Develop Your Leadership Skills

Gather opinions from your employees and leaders on how you can be a better manager. And take those suggestions to heart and make an effort to act on the feedback. Dive into books and articles that provide research and tips around cultivating a healthy relationship with your team.


Conduct Recurring One-on-Ones

Meet with employees regularly to show your employees that they're worth your time and attention. Ask what you can start or stop doing to improve your relationship with them. The number one rule for conducting one-on-one meetings is to make them a top priority. These are opportunities for you to learn about your employees' career goals, personal goals, concerns or issues, and valuable feedback.


Learn from Leaders Your Team Respects

Find out which leaders your team admires most and try to emulate some of their tactics and methods. Go one step further and find a leader you respect to help coach and develop your leadership skills. Odds are they'll want to help and might provide tactics that you could start implementing right away.


5. Communicate employee future fit.

Uncertainty at work is a breeding ground for employee stress, especially when it’s about an employee’s future fit within the company. When employees are unsure of what they’ll be doing within your organization or if they’ll even be a part of your organization this can create unnecessary worry, anxiety, and stress.


Pinpoint Areas of Uncertainty and Clarity

Stress can wreak havoc on your organization's overall productivity. Attempt to uncover where uncertainties are within your team and try to understand why. You'll also want to find out what gives your team members a sense of certainty or clarity. These are quick wins that you can immediately deliver on.


Conduct Career and Performance Conversations

Meet with employees to discuss career aspirations, as well as your team’s and company’s future needs. Make sure all employees understand whether they’re exceeding or falling short of your expectations.


Be Transparent

Clearly communicate organizational and team strategies, as well as any changes that occur. Create goals that align your organization from the bottom to the top. Every employee should have a clear understanding of how their work personally impacts the team and organization as a whole. Employees who see how their puzzle piece fits into the larger picture will be more driven, engaged, and seemingly less stressed.


6. Improve work environments.

According to the World Health Organization, health is a positive state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being. This means a healthy working environment is not only one without harmful conditions, but one that has plenty of health-promoting conditions.

    • 23% of employees take zero breaks, excluding restroom and meals, during an average workday
    • 38% of employees have meal breaks that are less than 30 minutes.

Employees can become stressed when their work environment influences unhealthy behaviors, such as bad eating habits, short or infrequent breaks, or poor work-life balance. A healthy workplace will support and motivate healthy employee habits.


Promote Work-Life Balance

Create a team culture that supports life outside of work and be sure to lead by example. Hunkering down in your office until the late hours of the night isn't always the best way to show your employees what work ethic you expect of them. Be a positive role model when it comes to healthy habits and be mindful of where you spend your time and energy.


Implement Walking Meetings and Natural Breaks

Have your team disconnect and do an activity together. Taking time away from your desk is a simple way to recharge and refocus. Consider the setting for your manager-employee or team meetings. Try out a walking or standing meeting, when the weather's nice, and get your muscles moving.


Launch a Team Competition

Accomplishing a goal is much easier when you have a support system to help you. Motivate healthy employee habits by starting a fitness or health competition within your organization or team. Include prizes for participation and a grand prize for the winner.


7. Improve employee financial security.

According to our research, financial issues can cause an overwhelming amount of stress in employees’ personal lives. Because the paychecks you write are likely the primary source of income for your employees, financial issues at home can cause stress and disengagement at work.

    • 36% of employees feel financially secure
    • 19% of employees believe they are saving enough for retirement.

Although organizations and leadership should be careful about inserting themselves into employees’ financial decisions unsolicited, there are things you can do to help if called upon.


Have Transparent and Empathetic Financial Conversations

Financial conversations can be very uncomfortable for both parties involved. In every compensation conversation, you'll want to come prepared. No matter the type of progression, referencing documentation will keep your discussion transparent and fair. Be honest about each employee’s compensation potential and how their current pay compares to the market.

While you can't always resolve tricky money matters, being understanding of the financial burdens your employees might be facing and providing guidance will go a long way.


Give Spot Bonuses for Exceptional Performance

Managers should be able to clearly communicate how an employee’s initial salary was determined, and what that employee needs to do to move up to the next level. But when compensation becomes a concern, consider rewarding your employees' high performance with spot bonuses. This type of compensation looks at individual contributions rather than applying bonuses across the organization with a standardized, cookie cutter approach.


Give Access to Resources

As a manager, it's often your job to be an advisor, mentor, or coach to your employees. Be available to advise employees if they come to you with financial questions. Don't worry if you don't feel comfortable providing financial advice, but make sure your team has access to external, qualified financial resources.


8. Help employees manage long hours.

Many employees put in more than the typical 8-hour workday. For some shift jobs, working long hours is the norm. For others, increased workload or inadequate staffing may result in more hours spent working. Long work hours tend to be more stressful and lead to physical, mental, and emotional distress. This leaves employees feeling fatigued, less productive, and less likely to make healthy lifestyle choices.


Keep Employees Motivated

Showing appreciation is a great way to encourage and motivate your employees. Find opportunities to recognize employees for their effort and goal achievements. Depending on your area of work, your employees' time might be spent in long, tiring shifts which can be disengaging when they see their manager putting in a fraction of the time. Show them you’re just as dedicated by arriving early, chipping in where you can, and sticking it out to help them get the job done.


Allow for Breaks 

Providing support for your team in their dawn to dusk work schedules is important. But regular breaks are also necessary for your physical and mental health and can improve employee productivity. Encourage employees to take a 5-minute break every hour and a longer break once or twice a day. Lunch and bathroom breaks shouldn't be the only opportunities to get away from their desks or workstations.


Re-Assess Workload

Make sure your employees’ long hours aren’t spent doing low-impact tasks. If long shifts are necessary to complete big projects, be sure the work your employees are putting in is valuable. If working long hours becomes habitual, especially when it shouldn’t be or doesn't need to be, consider removing or reprioritizing tasks.



Employee stress levels should be monitored and solved by employees and their managers. Download our ebook, Stress Management in the Workplace, to see what you can do to help prevent employee stress in the workplace.


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Published November 7, 2019 | Written By Jocelyn Stange