Keeping employee stress levels low is a common interest among business owners and managers. The less overwhelmed by stress employees are, the more productive they can be.
Unfortunately, there's not usually a big budget set aside for office stress relief. But don't worry, we've got you covered. In this article, we go over 8 ideas for free office stress relief.
Offices aren’t the most relaxing places. Far from it. That is, unless you find countless meetings and deadlines relaxing.
It’s not just offices themselves. Work’s just stressful. Always has been and probably always will be. Try as we might, the more we invest money in open layouts, feng shui, or rewards, the office remains a source of stress for most employees.
But even though we’ll never be able to yank stress out by the roots and eradicate it completely between the hours of 9-5, we can do something about it, lessen the effects, and here’s the best part: it doesn’t have to cost you a dime. Here a few free -- or mostly free -- ideas that can help your employees stop biting their nails and enjoy their work (we hope).
8 Ideas to Reduce Employee Stress for Free
(or almost free)
1. Start A Walking Movement
One of the leading causes of stress in the office—believe it or not—is the lack of mobility we experience during the workday. Sitting doesn’t seem that stressful, but it really is. And after sitting for 8 hours a day, people are usually pretty stressed out.
A simple, cost-effective remedy is to walk more. Walking reduces stress, recalibrates us, and feels good. Problem is, when workers are left to their own devices, they aren’t going to get up and walk as much as they should unless they are the small percentage of extremely motivated people who do things like cold press their own juice every day. For the rest of us, structuring a reward or incentive for the most stairs, miles, or minutes walked during the day is extremely helpful.
Encourage people to put walking on their calendars—at least 10 minutes for every hour they end up sitting. The result is a less stressed office.
2. Encourage Daydreaming at Work
In the professional world, having one’s head in the clouds has always been seen as a bad thing. “Get back to work” is what the top brass usually thinks when it comes to daydreaming.
But structured daydreaming actually makes people more productive and less stressed. Google took on a form of this with their 20% rule, but you don’t have to do anything like that. Reminding (and encouraging) your employees to take a few minutes every hour to let their minds wander could pay huge, stress-relieving benefits.
3. The Office Pet
Furry (or sometimes non-furry) friends are an amazing way to relieve stress inside an office. WebMD shows an interesting connection between playing with a pet and reduced stress hormones. Whether you buy, adopt, or just have your workers take turns bringing in their own pets, taking a few minutes a day to rub a dog behind the ears can do emotional wonders for us.
4. Fun and Active Stress Reducers at Work
Work and play are always presented as a dichotomy. Apparently the two can’t (or at least they're not supposed to) coexist. And that’s probably why our offices are pressure cookers for stress.
Encouraging play in your office can take several forms. Innocent pranking might be one. But introducing structured play is probably even better. Start an office-wide fantasy league. Bring a Scrabble board into the break room.
Since we’re talking free here, find someone willing to donate a ping pong table (you have no idea how much stress can be removed from your office by a double elimination ping pong tournament). However you introduce play into your office, make sure it stays lighthearted and simple. The effects can work wonders.
5. Stretching Exercises for Work
Our bodies weren’t built to sit at a desk for 8 hours a day. Sitting hunched all day, everyday doesn’t just make us sore—it makes us stressed. Stretching regularly comes with physical, as well as emotional, benefits.
The trick here, is that you just can’t tell your employees to stretch because they won’t do it. You have to make stretching a priority. Make sure they know how to stretch. This might include posting new stretches on your intranet or break room. You can also dial things up a notch or two by conducting your own yoga classes. Just make sure you have a professional lead them in proper form to avoid pulled hamstrings.
6. Breathing Exercises for Stress Relief
This might be the freest free thing you can possibly do to relieve stress in your office.
It might also be one of the most effective. Breathing has a profound impact on our stress levels, but it occurs so naturally, that we hardly give it any thought. Teaching mindfulness and controlled breathing in your office might sound a little hippie or new age, but give it a try. The results will speak for themselves. Try this for ideas on how to start: Breathing Exercises for Workplace Stress Relief.
7. How Plants Can Boost Morale
We also weren’t meant to sit under florescent lighting and drop ceiling panels all day. It’s just not good for the soul. Conversely, being in or around nature has a natural, soothing effect on us. Encourage your employees to bring plants in. Actually, you should bring plants in, too. Everyone should bring plants in. The greener your office, the better. And the less stressed out you’ll be. There are even plants that can help purify the air -- an added bonus for all those breathing exercises you'll be doing.
8. The Silver Bullet: Work/Life Balance
Okay, there might not be any “silver bullet” to eliminating stress in your office, but this last idea pays big dividends, but it’s the hardest to pull off.
In our current work culture, results matter. But those results often come at a huge human cost. The ultimate stress reliever lives within the control of every single company, and it’s called work/life balance.
In other words, cut out the late nights, long hours, weekend work, and early mornings. If you want a happier, healthier, and more productive office, let your employees enjoy their lives. They’ll be better for it, and so will your business.