3 ways to keep employee stress in check

Job pressures are the second leading cause of stress after financial worries among Americans,The Wall Street Journal reported. As employers, you may not be able to remove the stress of working in a busy medical practice, but you may be able to arm staff with stronger skills to cope with it.

If investing in training programs seems daunting, remember the cost (and additional stress) caused by increased employee turnover.

Practice stress reduction

"Mindfulness-based stress reduction," developed at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, teaches employees meditation techniques, such as breathing, as well as how to refocus their thoughts when they wander, Diana Kamila, a senior teacher at the university's Center for Mindfulness, told WSJ. Students learn to practice periodic self "check-ins," while working, walking, driving or eating, and execute focusing or calming techniques when needed. While the traditional course involves several weekly sessions, plus a full-day retreat, some practitioners offer training online.

Focus on the positive

Another tactic is training employees in cognitive-behavioral skills, which teaches students to screen out negative thoughts and focus on positive aspects (e.g., the idea that failure can be an opportunity). During an experiment using the technique, employees at railroad company Union Pacific Corp received telephone coaching and online training to explore how negativity and self-criticism could hinder job performance. They learned to catch themselves having negative thoughts and replace them with more hopeful ideas. After the training, the percentage of employees who said yes to the question, "Did you experience happiness yesterday?" rose from 79 percent to 94 percent, WSJ reported.

Ensure rest breaks

Finally, the last tactic requires no additional investment but could cost you dearly if you skip it. According to an article from Medscape Today, your practice could face legal action if you fail to provide nonexempt employees with required meal and rest breaks. And while an employee may still choose to work through lunch, employers may not pressure workers to do so. In addition, "if the employer knew or reasonably should have known that the employee was working during the meal period," Medscape noted, "the employer will be liable for payment of the employee's regular (or overtime) wage for such time worked."

To help employees get the most out of these breathers, consider creating a retreat-like space in your break room. American Specialty Health in San Diego, for example, features a staff "relaxation room," decorated with large tropical-beach photos, a trickling fountain and herbal aromatherapy scents. Greg Lane, a manager at American Specialty Health, told WSJ that when he meditates in the room, his shoulders drop, his breathing deepens and tension drops away.

To learn more:
- read the article from The Wall Street Journal
- see the story from Medscape Today

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