Successful businesses seem to manage the fine line between creating a dynamic fast paced business, or one that burns its employees out.
The objective of this month’s article is to highlight the importance of supporting and managing the stress present within our workforce, in order to equip employees to cope with the demands placed on them at work.
What is ‘too much’?
Biologically, stress is what keeps us alert to danger, so stress isn’t always a bad thing – as it can help keep you focussed and able to meet a new challenge.
But in today’s workplace environment, with ever increasing demands, longer hours, and tighter deadlines, stress can leave our people feeling worried, drained and overwhelmed. It’s when sustained stress exceeds our ability to cope, it stops being helpful and starts causing physical and mental damage.
Showing the signs of stress
Spotting the signs of stress both at individual and team level is imperative to know when to intervene. Does any of the following sound familiar?
• Arriving for work late
• Showing signs of nervousness / loss of confidence
• Mood swings
• Loss of motivation and commitment to work
• Emotional responses – overly tearful, sensitive or aggressive
• Increasing sickness absence
• Higher than normal staff turnover
• Lower productivity
• More internal complaints and grievances
• Inter/intra team arguments
Common workplace causes of stress
When looking at a typical workplace, there are common circumstances that seem to contribute to the signs of a stressed workforce. It is important to consider these and understand that, if left unchecked or addressed, they may develop into a major problem for employees and the business.
A recent article published by the American Institute of Stress blames workload for the majority of stress in a workforce, but other commonly reported issues include:
Increased working hours
If you regularly rely on overtime to meet production of revenue targets, the short-term benefit of increased earnings will eventually be overtaken by signs of stress. Equally, setting unrealistic targets, will lead to an expectation to work during the evenings and weekends regularly.
Fear of redundancy or lack of longer-term career prospects is a major cause of stress.
Pressure to perform
It is now commonplace for a business to expect a workforce to perform at an optimum level – all the time! With no room for error or time to re-group and assess performance, it is not surprising that this causes stress across a business.
Tasks that do not engage or challenge
It is sometimes unavoidable to create roles that follow a limited process or scope. These typically tend to be the roles that report higher levels of stress, due to lack of control the operator has on the outcome/output.
Managers to the rescue
Managing stress within the workplace centres around adopting a robust overall approach to health and wellbeing. Promoting good nutrition, and encouraging activity is absolutely key and has been covered in detail in previous issues. Where specific stress related issues have been identified at work, we would recommend the following tactics for organisations and their managers to help ease the pressure.
• Stay close. Ensure each team member has a good induction and knows exactly what is required of them. Have regular private 1-2-1s where any issue can be discussed and put health and wellbeing on the agenda at team meetings.
• Lead by example. Taking care of yourself as a manager is the best way to influence the cultural behaviours that are set. Visibly doing so shows your team that it’s ok for them to do the same. The obvious but often overlooked examples include staying at home if you’re unwell; trying not to email employees outside of work hours; respect people’s annual leave by not making any contact at all.
• Review regularly. It’s important to understand people’s individual workloads, duties and responsibilities – and to change them if they are unachievable. This can be as simple as watching out for people working excessive hours which might highlight where support or development is needed to work more effectively.
• Offer a flexible environment. If your people can achieve their objectives working from home once a fortnight, then let them! Or if a team member with young children would be less stressed if allowed to start early and leave to pick the children up once a week, let them! It’s far more productive to focus on the results, rather than a rigid environment. If you have lots of home workers, give them the opportunity to form relationships with their co-workers, or give those who work in a busy team occasional access to work in a quieter environment.
ViiSana specialises in implementing wellbeing programme through the implementation of company-wide Vitality Life and Health insurance. If you would like to discuss your company’s individual health concerns/challenges, or if you would just like to discuss ideas for implementing a programme at your business, please get in touch. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org