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
The first step is to know when your employees are stressed out. If you are not doing so already, schedule regular check-in meetings with your employees. Use these meetings to go over what the employee is currently working on and find out if they need any extra help or support. This is especially important if you manage a team of people who spend a lot of time working with minimal supervision. Your independent employees may be working to the point of exhaustion without you realizing it if you do not regularly check in to see how they are doing.
If you notice that an employee is having a particularly difficult time managing stress, start by working on prioritizing tasks and breaking projects down into more manageable bites. You can also be an advocate for that person and step in when others at the company are pressuring your employees to rush to get a task done. My last boss was really good at this. When she saw that one of us was stressed to the point that we nearly crawled under our desks and curled up in the fetal position, she would ask what we were working on and start taking things off our list. When we failed to delegate, she would do so for us. She would also become an advocate and step in when others were placing unreasonable demands on us to hire five more people in just a few 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.
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Provide regular positive feedback
Do not be the kind of manager who falls into the habit of only providing feedback when things do not go well. Give plenty of positive feedback to help encourage employees, especially when your employees have worked on a stressful project. Workplace stress is not completely avoidable, but giving positive feedback can do a lot to help an employee know that all their time and energy was worth the effort. It can be disheartening to put long hours into a project only to receive no praise or thanks at the end.
In addition to positive feedback, provide opportunities for regular social interaction. Treat your employees to a staff appreciation lunch, bring in coffee and donuts in the morning or set up a workplace ice cream social. Give employees little breaks like these to let them relax and not talk about work. Laugh and have fun. These are excellent stress relievers.
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.