​By Julie Stich, CEBS

Ah, summer. Flipflops. Coconut-scented suntan lotion. Popsicles. Summer can mean vacation, an escape from “real life.” Even when we’re working, summer can seem a little more relaxed.

There can be stresses, of course. Who’s going to watch the kids all summer? How can I plan, pack, and find time for that trip to Niagara Falls? And I’m covering for three people at work this Friday . . . Summer brings extra activity but also an unspoken permission to forget the pressures of life and have some fun. As August winds down and back-to-school season beckons, there’s a return to real life and real stresses. It’s time to get back into a routine. How can you, as an employer, help your employees manage their stress in this transitional season?

8-6_Easing-workers-backtoschool-stress.jpgAnytime can be a stressful time, but seasons of transition tend to deliver extra stressors. We’re told a little stress can be good for us—It keeps us alert, attentive and engaged. It can help us perform better. But too much stress can negatively affect our performance, workplace productivity and focus. It can be bad for our health and make us lose sleep. It can crush our morale and hurt both our work and personal relationships.

There are many ways an employer can help employees manage their stress—some big, some small. Some may come with a price tag. Others are low- or no-cost. Try a mix, and see what works for your organization.

  • ​Include stress management offerings in your wellness program. Bring in someone to teach meditation, relaxation techniques and other coping methods. Offer ten-minute massages. Provide on-site exercise facilities.
  • Contract with an employee assistance plan (EAP). Make sure to communicate its availability and encourage employees to call when they need to.
  • Offer some flexibility in your work environment.
    • Let employees work from home, either regularly or as needed.
    • Implement a compressed workweek (e.g., four 10-hour days).
    • Give employees the chance to choose their own start or end time to accommodate kids’ school schedules.
    • Offer employees the chance to occasionally attend a school function or a game.
    • Encourage employees to leave their desks for five- or ten-minute intervals to walk outside, listen to music, or do breathing exercises or yoga in a quiet room.
  • Provide morale boosters like a Friday pizza lunch, jeans day, the occasional recess, an on-the-spot gift of two movie tickets, a chili cookoff, ugly sweater day or a game room.
  • Find ways to encourage employee volunteerism in your community. Promote or create volunteer opportunities.
  • Treat employees fairly and respectfully.
  • Be generous with your appreciation. After all, a verbal “thank you” is hard to beat.

Here’s a list of helpful resources you may wish to share with your employees:

Manage Stress, healthfinder.gov

Managing Stress, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Stress and Your Health Fact Sheet [for Women], U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health

Managing Job Stress, HealthLinkBC

Mental Health: Coping With Stress (It’s Your Health), Health Canada

Stress Management, HealthLinkBC

Workplace Stress, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety

​Has your organization tried something that’s been very successful? We’d love to hear about it. Please share it with me at julies@ifebp.org​.


Julie Stich, CEBS

Director, Research

Favorite Foundation service/product: A tie between our research reports and the personalized research service!

Benefits related topics she’ll happily discuss: Issues involving women in retirement, ACA, innovative benefits, trends, communicating the value of benefits, work/life benefits and “fuzzy” benefits.

Favorite Foundation conference/event moment: Listening to Eric Greitens’ keynote at the 2012 US AC. Also, really likes being in a booth at whichever conference, and chatting with members.

Personal Insight: A history buff, Julie enjoys traveling to major U.S. landmarks. She is also a life-long Trekker, and will correct you if you mistakenly call her a “Trekkie.”


Recommended Posts

FAQs on Workplace Emergency Savings Accounts Under SECURE 2.0  

Jenny Gartman, CEBS

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) has issued FAQs on optional pension-linked emergency savings accounts (PLESAs) as part of the implementation of the SECURE 2.0 Act of 2022 (ERISA section 801). SECURE 2.0 authorized 401(k), 403(b) and governmental […]

Foundation Survey Results–Focus on Mental Health Initiatives in Apprenticeship Programs

Justin Held, CEBS

The International Foundation just released Top Trends in Apprenticeship Programs—2024 Survey Results, the 8th iteration of their apprenticeship program benchmarking survey. In addition to focusing on trends, such as individual and program challenges, life skills, and partnerships, this iteration takes a deep […]