Can Benefits Reduce Employee Stress?

U.S. workers continue to report increasing stress levels, and anxiety-related issues affect an estimated 40 million adults annually. However, these disorders often go undiagnosed or untreated. This means you probably have employees who are suffering from stress and anxiety.

The good news is that you can help. Through comprehensive and unique benefits packages, you can reduce your employees’ stress load.

“When employees feel cared for at work, they are less likely to suffer from stress and burnout and are more likely to be engaged at work,” says Laura Hamill, chief people officer and chief science officer at Limeade.

Here are three ways you can leverage benefits at your organization to reduce employee stress.

Address Actual Needs

The first step in addressing stress is to find out what’s stressing out your employees the most, and find ways to reduce their stress. But to do this through benefits, you must speak directly to your employees about their needs and desires. “If I was to arbitrarily look at mental health in the workforce and make up some rules that weren't speaking directly to the needs of my employee population, I would be in default,” says Zane Dalal, executive vice president of BPA Benefits.

A good place to start is by looking at demographic information on your employees. From there, ask specific questions to customize benefits. Do your employees need flexible time off to take care of children or grandchildren? Would they use a free gym membership?

Employee responses will help you to offer the best benefits for them. Don’t stop after one round of surveys: “You have to keep listening to your employees,” Dalal says.

Offer More Than Spa Days

Outside functions are lovely, but if the job itself is a stressor then addressing that should be your first priority, Hamill says. “Organizations should try to ensure appropriate workloads and hours, improve their physical environment and provide employees with a chance for positive interactions with peers and customers,” she says. “You should structure jobs in a way that uses a variety of skills and offers employees control and autonomy in how they do their jobs.”

Dalal agrees. “Consider your employees’ physical comfort; you can furnish offices with ergonomic chairs and standing desks, for example,” he says. “Encourage frequent breaks, and make sure they’re actually using their vacation time. That’s such an incredibly important stress reducer.”

Dalal also suggests meeting with your management team once a month to assess the needs of specific departments. “That excitement and desire to work for your workforce trickles down from you, to your managers, to your employees.”

Make Sure Your Benefits Are Beneficial

Offer flexible benefits, and let employees prioritize their needs. Employees usually know what’s best for their own mental health. Consider offering schedule flexibility or “mental health” days so they can focus on recovery and come back refreshed.

Also, don’t neglect their sense of purpose. “It’s crucial that your employees feel like they have an important contribution to make,” Dalal says. Everyone wants to have meaning in their lives, and much of their lives are spent working for your organization. You have an obligation to respect that commitment.

Hamill concurs. “Look for ways to connect individual employees to the organization’s purpose,” she says. “Work to provide benefits that are reflective of your company’s purpose, mission and values.”