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How Can Stress Be Reduced?
Even though stress can never be totally eliminated from a person’s life, managers want to reduce the stress that leads to dysfunctional work behavior. How? Through controlling certain organizational factors to reduce job-related stress, and to a more limited extent, offering help for personal stress. These days, there are various institutions like LSBF that provide training and workshops on handling various organizational factors. Managers can learn various things through these courses.
The other things that managers can do in terms of job-related factors begin with employee selection. Managers need to make sure that an employee’s abilities match the job requirements. When employees are in over their heads, their stress levels typically will be high. A realistic job preview during the selection process can minimize stress by reducing ambiguity over job expectations. Improved organizational communications will keep ambiguity-induced stress to a minimum. Similarly, a performance planning program such as MBO will clarify job responsibilities, provide clear performance goals, and reduce ambiguity through feedback. Job redesign is also a way to reduce stress. If stress can be traced to boredom or to work overload, jobs should be redesigned to increase challenge or to reduce the workload.
Redesigns that increase opportunities for employees to participate in decisions and to gain social support also have been found to lessen stress. For instance, at U.K. pharmaceutical maker GlaxoSmithKline, a team-resilience program in which employees can shift assignments depending on people’s workload and deadlines, has helped reduce work-related stress by 60 percent.
No matter what you do to eliminate organizational stressors, some employees will still be “stressed out.” And stress from an employee’s personal life raises two problems. First, it’s difficult for the manager to control directly. Second, there are ethical considerations. Specifically, does the manager have the right to intrude—even in the most subtle ways—in an employee’s personal life? If a manager believes it’s ethical and the employee is receptive, there are a few approaches the manager can consider.
To help deal with these issues, many companies offer employee assistance and wellness programs. These employer-sponsored programs are designed to assist employees in areas where they might be having difficulties such as financial planning, legal matters, health, fitness, or stress.
Contemporary employee assistance programs (EAPs) are extensions of programs that began in U.S. companies in the 1940s. Companies such as DuPont, Standard Oil, and Kodak recognized that a number of their employees were experiencing problems with alcohol. Formal programs were implemented on the company’s site to educate these workers about the dangers of alcohol and to help them overcome their addiction. The rationale for these programs, which still holds today, is getting a productive employee back on the job as quickly as possible. An organization also can benefit in terms of a return on investment. It’s estimated that U.S. companies spend almost $1 billion each year on EAP programs. Studies suggest that most of these companies save up to $5 to $16 for every EAP dollar spent. That’s a significant return on investment!
In addition to EAP, many organizations are implementing wellness programs. A wellness program is designed to keep employees healthy. These programs vary and may focus on such things as smoking cessation, weight control, stress management, physical fitness, nutrition education, high-blood-pressure control, violence protection, work team problem intervention, and so on. Wellness programs are designed to help cut employer health costs and to lower absenteeism and turnover by preventing health-related problems.
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