Wednesday, September 24, 2008

De-stress at work and encourage innovation

The economy is in bad shape. So bad even Warren Buffett is worried.

Whether its the falling dollar, gas prices or debt, our country’s financial problems have all of us pretty stressed out these days. Aside from some of the more violent effects of a bad economy on the workplace, stress has a direct impact on employee productivity and your bottom line.

According to the 2007 “Stress in America Report” by the American Psychological Association, more than half of Americans said they are less productive at work as a result of stress.


“All that stress adds up to an estimated $300 billion a year in costs for U.S. businesses due to absenteeism, decreased productivity, employee turnover, and medical, legal and insurance fees.”

On top of the economy, the bleak medical benefits situation in the US is stifling innovation. As medical premiums and medical deductibles rise, more money is taken out of paychecks and people have less money to spend. Innovation is difficult to find when employees are overwhelmed with medical bills.

While we can’t change our country’s health care system or improve the economy overnight, we can do something to help lessen employee stress at work. Get their minds off their finances and focused on innovation, and you’ll start seeing happier, more productive employees with better ideas coming out of your company.

A few ideas to de-stress employees and spark innovation:

Start a Fantasy Football league. It’s helped some big companies like NuVox motivate their staff and build teamwork. Some friendly office competition that doesn’t take employees away from their work for too long can help alleviate stress.

Start a skunkworks program or innovation league. It’s hard to get businesses to take risks in a bad economy. Sideline any fear of risk and start a company within your company (called Skunkworks) where innovation is encouraged. Once all of the “real” work is done, get together with the skunkworks team to innovate and empower employees. It can be as little as four hours a week, or more depending on how much time is available.

Start an employee wellness program. Regular exercise improves health and reduces stress. Start a weekly walking program or make a deal with a local gym for discounted employees memberships, and get employees moving. Healthier employees make less trips to the doctor, reducing medical costs and insurance rates.

Start telecommuting. Allow employees to telecommute for part of the week. Just reducing an employee’s weekly commute by one day can make a big dent in how much they spend each month in gas. By spending less money commuting to the office, employees will have one less thing to worry about financially.

Unless you have $800 million in your back pocket, no one is going to solve the nation’s financial crisis anytime soon. Until the economy begins to turn around, all we can do is work to mold company cultures to help de-stress employees and encourage innovation.

No comments:

Brought to you by