Workplace stress is very real and legitimate concern for employers and employees. While most individuals would say that have felt stress in the workplace, the origin of their stress can be quite diverse and include:
But there are also situations where employees claim to suffer from workplace stress to manipulate their work environment or as a method to get their employer off their back.
How can an employer hope to have a healthy and productive workplace when stress can come from so many different situations? How can employers hope to identify real instances of workplace stress versus attempts to avoid discipline? Because of these complicated questions, discussions of workplace stress and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) are often avoided as much as possible.
Workplace stress is a difficult problem to wrap your hands around. This is because it’s usually something that an employee suffers through in silence. Employers only become aware that there’s a problem, if at all, when it’s usually too late
Often, it will appear in your best and/or hardest workers. These are the people who, while they do provide the best work product, also tend to drive themselves the hardest. Changes in the workplace – actual or perceived – may cause them to question their ability to produce at the levels they are accustomed. They keep pushing and pushing until they run out of steam. The employee that you used to drive ideas and hit crucial deadlines is now sullen, withdrawn and providing inferior work product. Instead of wondering what type of reward you are going to provide, you are now wondering if you must draft up a performance improvement plan.
The key here is to recognize that workplace stress usually takes time to manifest in the workplace. This means that the best defense against workplace stress is knowing your employees. If your managers are in sync with your employees, it will be easier to recognize when they are not acting in their normal behavior. That is a good time for both parties to have an open conversation about what has happened and why things have changed. Ideally, you may be able to address the situation before it progresses too far into the workforce.
FMLA may be an option for an employee that is suffering from workplace stress, especially if it rises to the point of a serious health condition that affects the employee’s ability to perform their work duties. FMLA identifies a serious health condition as:
Realizing that FMLA requires a serious health condition, this makes it much harder for employees to incorrectly allege workplace stress and easier for those who really need help to get assistance. This should also put employers at ease since they don’t have to determine on their own who is or is not really suffering from a serious health condition.
Once FMLA has been identified as an option, the employee can take a leave of absence all at one time or have some type of intermittent leave that allows for them to modify their schedule (e.g., longer lunch breaks, less work hours, etc.). It’s important for both employers and employees to realize that leaving the office for a prolonged period may not be the only option on the table.
Workplace stress can happen in any business. This means that both employers who are not subject to FMLA and employees who may not eligible for FMLA still need to have options. The first place to look is to state laws to see if any may be applicable. Most states have some version of unpaid family medical leave that may cover this exact situation but have a greater eligibility requirement than FMLA.
But if you are an employer or an employee that does not fall within FMLA or there is no applicable state law, another option would be your existing paid time off (PTO) policy or even the implementation of a personal leave. Sometimes these options can be better than FMLA as the employer and the employee have greater flexibility in designing a solution that may be of mutual benefit..
There is no easy solution for workplace stress. It is tenacious and common. But by working together, employers and employees may be able to provide realistic solutions or, at the very least, productively address the elephant in the room.
As stated above, the best offense for workplace stress if for managers and supervisors to really know their employees so that changes in behavior are easier to recognize. However, for some managers and supervisors, interpersonal skills do not come easy and that means that they must work a little harder at being accessible and fostering a healthy workplace. We have tools that can help with that. Register for the webinars in our leadership series dealing with building interpersonal skills: Applying Leadership Skills 5: Team Building is on November 13, 2019.
Risk management and human resources are traditionally two different job functions, and the people in these areas have rarely crossed paths — but that is changing.
Why are these people starting to work together more frequently?
Foth Companies, headquartered in Green Bay, Wis., understands the link between the company’s success and the well-being of its employees. Implementing a wellness program called “Workin’ Well” featuring health risk assessments (HRAs) is one way the company is demonstrating its commitment to employees.
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