A stressed-out or unhappy workforce does nobody any good. In fact, it can become infectious.
If your staff are feeling continually stressed in workplace it is important you take action. There are many workplace stress management strategies that leaders and managers can take to help reduce stress levels within the team.
Ask yourself whether your organisation is doing everything it can to set realistic workloads and work schedules. An important risk control measure for work-related stress is to factor work-life balance into resourcing. Your staff are only human – they likely have a life outside of work that can compete for their attention during the week, and the need to rest on the weekend. Failure to quickly spot and implement effective workplace stress management can have long-term effects on their health and your business.
Are your people stressed?
You may think everything’s going well with your team and their workload could be heavier, but take some time to look closely and you might see some signs of work stress. As a leader or manager it’s important to regularly review stress levels in your team. Ask yourself:
- Are your people constantly missing lunch to get work done? Staying glued to their desks and skipping breaks may make them look like very dedicated members of your team who put work first. However it can be an unhealthy practice if your staff aren’t using the time to eat a healthy, balanced lunch to fuel the rest of their day, or taking the opportunity to go for a walk and a stretch to increase their activity levels. It could also be a sign that there’s too much work on their plate.
- Do your staff often take work home after hours? Home should be a place where your staff can rest and relax after hours, away from their work. If they’re working long hours at night or on the weekends, then they may not be getting the rest that their bodies and minds need. This may also be robbing them of time for family, friends, and other nurturing relationships that are important for their well-being.
- Is their work often rushed? Are reports being submitted to you incomplete, un-proofread, or just plain below standard? Stressed employees who feel that there’s always more work to come may rush to get through their tasks, often resulting in an output that’s sub-par.
- Do they seem overly emotional, edgy or irritable? If your staff behave in uncharacteristic ways, such as snapping back at you when you question the report they submitted, or suddenly cry over things they normally wouldn’t, it could be a sign that they’re having trouble coping with pressures at work.
- Notice anyone attention levels fading during meetings? How about team members jumping from one project to another? Having too many things to think about can put more burden on the brain and may cause your team to lose focus and be unproductive.
What are some common causes of work stress?
As a leader in the business it is important that you understand common precursors to work stress. By understanding what can create stress within your workforce, not only will it help you perform a better risk management assessment, you are likely to also come across as a more empathetic and understanding leader.
The following list details potential scenarios which could cause stress in your work place:
- culture or lack of
- trauma and loss
- low or no change management
- bad management practices
- client and peer demands
- working environment
- employee relationships
- lack of resources
- team or individual skillsets
- role conflict
- poor ergonomics.
How can you help reduce stress in the workplace?
It is inevitable that individuals will experience stress from time to time. The following workplace stress management strategies may help your organisation prepare for and manage the inevitable to minimise negative impact.
Workplace stress management: 1. preparing to reduce the impact of stress
- Provide Mental Health First Aid or Wellness training for relevant managers and employees so that everyone can have a greater understanding of mental health issues. In particular, up skill and educate your workforce about the differences between healthy and unhealthy levels of stress, as well as how to spot signs of work stress. Ensure you provide information on where to seek help for mental health problems if and when they occur.
- Encourage a culture of open communication about mental health and wellbeing so employees know that it’s OK to talk about stress at work, and assure them that it’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help.
- Increase flexibility in your processes. Flex-time, compressed work weeks, job sharing, and telecommuting can be effective in helping employees balance demands, be more productive, and better manage workplace stress.
- Be clear about communications policies – avoid emailing or calling employees after work hours. If you send an email, make it clear that they’re not expected to respond right away as this can lead to stress. And if you absolutely need to call after the normal hours of work, restrict calls to emergencies if at all possible and try not to disturb people during their usual hours of rest.
- Review and reflect on how you lead your team as their manager. Are you always giving tight deadlines? Do you show disappointment with the littlest mistakes? Are you assigning work to the right people according to their capabilities? You might be one of the biggest stressors at work without even realising it!
Workplace stress management: 2. managing the effects of stress
- Encourage use of ‘personal’ leave where necessary, making it clear that leave entitlements can include scope for appointments with doctors or counsellors. Flexibility with ‘personal’ leave may also allow employees to arrange for leave in smaller blocks so they can be absent for a brief period without having to take the whole day off.
- Provide space where employees can take a rest or a break. Nap rooms are found in some of the most popular companies like Google and Uber, and others have wellness rooms that help their employees recharge within the day. When employees are always busy and working hard, chances are, they’re missing out on much needed rest and relaxation, which in turn can contribute to work stress. Allowing employees to take a breather at work in peace – whether to nap or do some meditation practice – can help them regain their energy and help reduce the effects of stress.
- For the more active workers, a mini gym and/or game room may do wonders too. Both exercise and play help release ‘happy’ hormones that may help your team cope with stressful situations at work. Having the chance to take breaks, even for a few minutes each day, can help them come back feeling more relaxed and re-energised to work.
Employers are required by law to ensure employees are able to complete their jobs in a safe working environment. Failure to do so not only results in health issues and poor business performance, it could also have legal implications. Therefore, it pays to start paying attention to the stress levels of your people and ensuring that you are doing something proactive to help improve their working lives.
WorkSafe Victoria. Preventing work-related stress – examples of risk control measures [Online; accessed Aug 2016] Available from: www.worksafe.vic.gov.au
Better Health Channel. Work-related stress [Online; accessed Aug 2017] Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/work-related-stress#lp-h-0