These days, everyone’s working lives are busier and more intense than ever, due largely to the increase in mobile communication devices which keep us checking our emails and thinking about work 24/7. As a result, workplace stress is a bigger issue than ever. In North America, 35 percent of workers report losing an hour or more per day in productivity due to stress. This means it’s not only employees who are being affected; businesses are getting less out of their teams, too.
Helping your employees deal with stress is important, no matter the size of your business or the industry you’re in. Read on for some tips you can follow to address this issue and improve your team today.
To ensure everyone is on the same page, it pays to set guidelines for workers to follow. This could mean encouraging staff members to take regular breaks throughout the work day and to “unplug” outside office hours, so they’re not working at all times of the day and night, seven days per week.
When it comes to meetings, also have guidelines about the duration and frequency of these get-togethers. Many workers feel they lose so much of their week in meetings that they’re constantly playing catch up to get through their job. Their stress levels rise as a result. Valerie Strief from Pramp says,
Hold fewer meetings. The content of most meetings can be summarized in a short email. Don’t hold them, or hold less of them and let everyone get on with their work.
You might also want to discourage multitasking at work. While many people think this is something they need to do to get through all their tasks, in fact, multitasking drains energy reserves from your brain, which makes it harder to focus. Employees will actually get more done and feel less stressed if they work through goals one by one. Andrew Rawson from Traliant says,
In order to reduce workplace stress among your employees, it is important to make sure you set clear goals from them. By setting these goals it is much easier for an employee to be able to focus on an end goal.
Interruptions of workflow on one project wastes time since it takes time for the brain to regain concentration. To help with this, your guidelines might suggest avoiding interrupting colleagues while they’re working and scheduling chat times instead. Ask employees not to bring cell phones, tablets and the like into meetings where they might be tempted to half-listen to what’s going on while they send a text or answer an email.
Put Support Systems in Place
Consider putting specific support systems in place to help your employees handle stress. For example, perhaps employ an on-site counselor who can be available for sessions with staff members whenever they feel they need it. Alternatively, partner with an off-site healthcare professional, and enable employees to see this person for either low or zero cost.
Nate from Maple Holistics says,
Subsidize therapy sessions through a local practice, or work with an insurance company. This may seem like an awkward move, but too many people are not seeking therapy, only due to financial concerns. Stress is a silent killer, make it easier for your employees to get the help they need.
Make sure that whoever you arrange to support your team in this way is suitably qualified. The person should have many years of experience in the field and have at a minimum completed an undergraduate degree in the area. It’s even better, though, if you find someone who has completed post-graduate studies too, such as Counseling Master’s programs online. Look for a person who you think will be a good fit for your company culture, too.
Let Workers Know You’re There to Help
One of the best ways to aid your employees is to simply let them know you’re there to help. Communication is key. A surprising amount of stress comes from misunderstandings; for example, employees think more is expected of them than actually is. Plus, a lack of communication can lead to people being uncertain about projects and/or their role(s) in them, which causes stress.
Avoid this issue by having an open-door type policy, where you make your team feel they can always approach you with questions and concerns. If there are other managers, department heads and the like in your company, train them to be similarly approachable and transparent about what is going on with the company. Dana Case, the Director of Operations at Mycorporation.com shares an easy way to do this:
All throughout the year, we have made it a point to send emails to our entire staff on a regular, near-weekly basis that serve as check-ins with the team. These emails generally come from our CEO, Deborah Sweeney, and address news about upcoming events and product launches, provide answers to frequently asked questions, and ask for feedback.
Ask yourself if you’re being clear when you provide instructions and think about the tone you’re setting in the workplace. Choose positive words and messages when speaking with your team, so people feel encouraged, inspired, empowered and included.
Let workers know they can be honest about the struggles they’re having, whether professionally or personally, and that you will listen and help them find ways to cope with their workload better. Be open to flexible work arrangements, such as people doing their tasks from home or at alternative times. This often helps people handle personal situations better, reducing their workplace stress.
No Need to Add to the Stress
Remember that if you continually seemed stressed, your workforce will notice. They’ll feel they must copy your habits, and the stress will “catch on” throughout the office. Lead by example, and you’ll make a big difference to your employees’ state of mind.
Your employees already have enough stress in their life trying to balance everything. While stress can sometimes be unavoidable in a workplace, there is no need to magnify that stress. Show your employees that you are confident in their ability to problem solve while giving them the support they need so that you have less overall stress in your workplace, and most importantly, happy employees.
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