How employers can manage stress within the workplace
Happy workers are productive workers but when the nine till overtime becomes too much, employers can soon find themselves having to address the pitfalls of staff burnout.
Whether it's an infinite workload, 24/7 emails or just a fast paced environment, the high demands made of modern workers means that employers need to know how to manage stress within the workplace.
What are the signs of workplace stress?Employers have a duty to relieve the pressure on those running too fast on the hamster wheel, but it's not always easy to recognise when staff are displaying signs of workplace stress. Ideally, there would be no hesitations in approaching a manager when the job is getting too much, but employees are usually reluctant to admit any form of fallibility, regardless of its nature.
Whilst under-performing staff might be a reflection of your recruitment methods, a sudden fall in performance is more apt to be a sign of stress. This downturn might manifest itself in numerous ways with a lack of concentration, uncharacteristic moods and a decline in commitment all being key signifiers. Other symptoms to keep an eye out for include an increase in absences, a decrease in punctuality and fatigue.
So what can employers do to reduce stress at work?Stress is part and parcel of the rat race but there are effective steps that employers can take to ensure that daily demands don't be begin to weigh too heavily on the shoulders of staff:
CommunicationClear channels of communication between staff and the powers at be is vital in establishing the open culture that's necessary to reduce workplace stress. Transparency, approachability and understanding are fundamental components to a happy environment; with a lacking of any of these typically resulting in an atmosphere of distrust and isolation.
We've come a long way since a cup on a string though and facilitating a method of communication whereby decisions, worries and opinions can be openly discussed (privately or publicly), can prove to be an inexpensive yet effective method of minimising employee concerns.
Autonomy (with support)A lack of control over the day to day can soon result in an office wide burnout as employees struggle to manoeuvre within the often uncompromising limitations that have been set by managers. Professionally or not, most people don't respond well when operating at the whim of others and employers need to trust that their staff will flourish without their incessant helicopter management.
Though complete chaos should always be discouraged, it's important that staff feel empowered and allowing them to manage THEIR job is one way of relieving some of the pressure whilst giving employers some valuable time back. 100% abandonment can lead to more stress and pressure though so providing autonomy with support is the key here.
Encourage breaksDespite the health warnings and tabloid headlines, the average British worker will spend a demoralising five years of their lifetime chained to a desk by the wheels of an office chair. As well as the increased risks of back pain, eye strain and heart disease, remaining sedentary for so long has been credited as the number one source of stress by 30% of workers.
Employers should therefore encourage staff to take short but relatively frequent breaks that include walking, stretching and possibly some fresh air. Whether it's an hourly initiative or you shoo them outside during lunch, these breaks act as respite for both the body and the mind and should see employees return to their desks more productive and feeling refreshed.
TrainingBeing ill-equipped to perform daily tasks can not only lead to inefficient job performance but also a low self esteem and an overall dissatisfaction with work. Ineptitude is never a solid foundation from which to build a successful career and a failure to address any skill gaps will inevitably lead to stress or a desire to move on.
Where an absence of knowledge or skills exists, employers should look to arrange additional training that enables staff to become experts in their vocation. How we feel about our job is largely reflective on our suitability to the position and becoming an 'expert' or a 'specialist' in the role can improve our attitude, performance and how others view us.
Stress is no stranger to the workplace but when it's beginning to impact upon performance and wellbeing, it's time for employers to step in and relieve the strain. Though some may respond better to seemingly insurmountable challenges, our tips for managing stress in the workplace should help managers create the working conditions to get the most out of their staff.