For years, workplace stress has felt so normal that I do not truly realize how stressed I am until I step away from my work. We live in a time where there’s an expectation that everything will be done NOW, companies have consolidated jobs and workers are trying to manage an unreasonable number of competing priorities. A stressed out worker is often an ineffective worker. Here are some tips for helping the people on your team manage their workplace stress.
Recognize when your employees are stressed
Knowing when your staff are stressed out is the first step. Set up regular check-in meetings with your staff if you haven’t previously. Use these sessions to discuss the employee’s current projects and determine whether they require any more assistance or support. This is crucial if you are in charge of a group of employees that spend a lot of time working independently. If you don’t frequently check in to see how they are doing, your independent workers can be working themselves into fatigue without you ever recognizing it.
Prioritizing activities and breaking down projects into smaller manageable chunks should be your first priorities if you observe that a worker is struggling to manage stress. You can also act as that person’s champion and step in when other team members are pressuring your staff to complete a task quickly. My last employer was really skilled at this. She would inquire what we were working on and begin crossing items off our lists when she noticed that one of us was feeling so overwhelmed that we were on the verge of crawling under our desks and curled up in the fetal position. She would take over when we didn’t delegate. She would also act as a champion and speak up when others made unreasonable demands of us, like hiring five more people in a matter of days.
You can also remind employees to take their breaks away from their desks. Rather than using the time to step away from work for a bit, an employee taking a break at their workstation is more likely to answer a question from someone who pops into their office or pick up the phone when it rings.
Provide regular positive feedback
Be careful not to become the type of manager that only offers feedback when things go wrong. Encourage staff members by providing lots of good feedback, especially after they’ve completed a challenging endeavor. Although it is not entirely possible to prevent workplace stress, providing supportive feedback can go a long way toward letting an employee know that their time and effort were well spent. Spending a lot of time on a project only to receive no recognition or gratitude at the end can be demoralizing.
Offer opportunities for regular social engagement in addition to encouraging input. Give your colleagues a lunch to show them how much you appreciate them, bring in coffee and donuts in the morning, or organize an ice cream party in the office. Give workers little breaks like these so they can unwind and refrain from discussing work. Have fun and laugh. These work wonders for de-stressing.
Create a wellness program
Providing outlets for physical fitness can be a good way to let some of the stress of the workday go. As I have mentioned in previous posts, a wellness program need not be elaborate. Allowing employees to set personal fitness goals, setting up a lunchtime walking group and providing discount gym memberships are all easy things to include in a basic wellness program. A 15-minute walk can be a good way to relieve stress and burn some calories at the same time.
If you notice that an employee is having a difficult time managing stress and perhaps is dealing with additional stress from their personal life, it may be time to help them find professional assistance. If you have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), this can be a good resource for finding counseling and support groups. A life coach or a therapist can give the employee some tools for managing stress.
Encourage employees to take time off
Most importantly, we all need time off to refresh and recharge. I have written before about the importance of a work-life balance, which is something I think we often neglect even though it is so important to our mental wellbeing. Encourage your employees to take time off, so they can get away from all the stress of the modern workplace, and tell them to avoid checking work email and voicemail. Doing so is good for your employees and therefore good for business.