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September 10, 2021 Amelia Wilcox

Top 9 Free Employee Stress Management Ideas

If you’re a human being, you’ve been stressed. But stress doesn’t have to be a constant in life.

Employers have an opportunity—and an obligation—to provide stress management tools for their hardworking teams.

Keeping employee stress levels low is a common interest among business owners and managers. The less overwhelmed employees are, the more productive they can be.

Unfortunately, there’s not usually a big budget set aside for office stress relief. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

Offices aren’t the most relaxing places. Far from it. That is unless you find countless meetings and deadlines relaxing.

Remote work offices can make stress management even harder. With kids running around and other distractions, it can be hard to sit down and focus. Disconnecting from work after a long day can also be challenging. The line between work and home life has blurred.

It’s not just workplace environments themselves. Work is just stressful. Try as we might, the more we invest money in open layouts, feng shui, or monetary rewards, the office remains a source of stress for most employees.

But even though we’ll never be able to yank stress out by the roots and eradicate it between the hours of 9-5, we can do something about employee stress management and lessen its effects.

And here’s the best part: it doesn’t have to cost you a dime.

Here are a few free—or mostly free—employee stress management ideas that can help your employees stop biting their nails and actually enjoy their work.

9 Free Employee Stress Management Ideas

Here they are at a glance:

  1. Start a walking movement
  2. Encourage daydreaming
  3. Have an office pet
  4. Hold fun activities
  5. Stretch
  6. Use breathing exercises
  7. Have plants
  8. Encourage breaks
  9. Create work-life balance

1. Start A Walking Movement

One of the leading causes of stress in the office is the lack of mobility we experience during the workday. Sitting doesn’t seem that stressful, but it really is. And after sitting for 8 hours a day, people are usually pretty stressed out—and many struggle with desk job pain.

A simple, cost-effective employee stress management idea is to walk more. Walking reduces stress, helps us reset, and provides an opportunity to connect with those we are walking with.

When workers are left to their own devices, they aren’t going to get up and walk as much as they should. Structuring a reward or incentive for the most stairs, miles, or minutes walked during the day is extremely helpful.

Try holding a FitBit challenge and see who can take the most steps in a week. You can also have walking meetings to encourage movement.

Encourage people to put walking on their calendars for at least 10 minutes for every hour they end up sitting. The result is a less stressed office.

Related: Connect with Nature to Improve Your Mental Health 

2. Encourage Daydreaming at Work

Having your head in the clouds has always been seen as a bad thing in the professional world.

But structured daydreaming actually makes people more creative, more productive, and less stressed. Reminding (and encouraging) your employees to take a few minutes every hour to let their minds wander could pay huge, stress-relieving benefits.

3. The Office Pet

Furry (or sometimes non-furry) friends are an amazing way to relieve stress inside an office. WebMD shows an interesting connection between playing with a pet and reduced stress hormones. Whether you buy, adopt, or have your workers take turns bringing in their own pets, taking a few minutes a day to rub a dog behind the ears can do emotional wonders for us.

If your team is working virtually, Slack or message your team cute pictures of your pets. It’s a great way to disconnect from work for a bit during the day, and it can help boost employee morale.

employee stress

4. Fun and Active Stress Reducers at Work

Work and play are always presented as a dichotomy. Apparently, the two can’t (or at least they’re not supposed to) coexist. And that’s probably why our offices are pressure cookers for stress.

Encouraging play in your office can take several forms. Innocent pranking might be one. But introducing structured play is probably even better. Start an office-wide fantasy league. Bring a Scrabble board into the break room. Play an online game together.

Since we’re talking free here, find someone willing to donate a ping pong table (you have no idea how much stress can be removed from your office by a double elimination ping pong tournament). However you introduce play into your office, make sure it stays lighthearted and simple.

Related: 5 Steps to Increase Employee Happiness 

5. Stretching Exercises for Work

Our bodies weren’t built to sit at a desk for 8 hours a day. Sitting hunched all day, every day, doesn’t just make us sore—it makes us stressed. Stretching regularly comes with physical, as well as emotional, benefits.

The trick here is that you have to make stretching a priority. Make sure they know how to stretch. This might include posting new stretches on your intranet or break room. You can also dial things up a notch or two by conducting your own yoga classes. Just make sure you have a professional lead them in proper form to avoid pulled hamstrings.

6. Breathing Exercises for Stress Relief

Breathing profoundly impacts our stress levels, but it occurs so naturally that we hardly give it any thought. Teaching mindfulness and controlled breathing in your office might sound a little hippie or new age, but give it a try. The results will speak for themselves. Try this for ideas on how to start: Breathing Exercises for Workplace Stress Relief.

ideas for job stress

7. How Plants Can Boost Morale

We also weren’t meant to sit under fluorescent lighting and drop ceiling panels all day.

Conversely, being in or around nature has a natural, soothing effect on us. Encourage your employees to bring plants in. The greener your office, the better. And the less stressed out you’ll be. Even plants can help purify the air—a bonus for all those breathing exercises you’ll be doing.

8. Encourage Breaks

Taking breaks at work is absolutely critical. Taking breaks helps us problem solve, destress, and move our bodies more throughout the day.

Encourage employees to take a full lunch break—and set the example. Update your status on Slack to “Taking a break,” and turn off your notifications.

Taking breaks helps us get more done.

9. The Silver Bullet: Work-Life Balance

Okay, there might not be any “silver bullet” to eliminating stress in your office, but this last idea pays big dividends, but it’s the hardest to pull off.

In our current work culture, results matter. But those results often come at a huge human cost. The ultimate stress reliever lives within the control of every single company, and it’s called work-life balance.

In other words, cut out the late nights, long hours, weekend work, and early mornings. If you want a happier, healthier, and more productive office, let your employees enjoy their lives. They’ll be better for it, and so will your business.


I am member of a team, and I rely on the team. I defer to it and sacrifice for it, because we are the team not the individual, is the ultimate champion.

Amelia Wilcox

Amelia Wilcox is the Founder and CEO of Nivati, a leader in corporate massage and employee mental health support since 2010. Her high-growth B2B company provides employee stress management tools that arm businesses with actionable data and positive employee experiences to improve wellbeing, boost morale, and increase engagement.

Amelia has exponentially grown her company from a solo living-room service business to an international technology brand.

Recently listed as a Forty Under 40, Fast 50, Inc 5000 Twice awarded National Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year

Licenses, Certifications & Memberships
Licensed Massage Therapist since 2002
Member of American Massage Therapy Association
Served on Utah Worksite Wellness Council from 2012-2015

Attended Utah College of Massage Therapy
Educated in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at the University of Utah

Massage Magazine (AMTA's publication)