Reducing stress in the workplace should be of high importance to leaders and managers. Within modern working life an element of workplace stress is normal, as we all have many deadlines and goals to meet and deliver. However, excessive stress can affect the productivity of an individual, as well as their physical and emotional wellbeing. Left unmanaged it can lead to poor performance, absence or ill health.
Leaders can’t control everything within a working environment, but that doesn’t mean that actions cannot be taken to reduce and manage workplace stress. There are a variety of steps that leaders can take to reduce stress in the workplace and decrease the pressure that people find themselves under.
1/ Recognise the warning signsslow down
When people feel overwhelmed or anxious they lose confidence and may become irritable or withdrawn at work; this usually makes them less productive and effective. Signs of excessive workplace stress are that individuals are notably uneasy or impatient (especially with management or towards other colleagues), or they have trouble concentrating/following tasks. Perhaps the employee is missing deadlines, repeatedly staying late to catch up or complaining of excessive workloads.
As soon as leaders notice the signs and symptoms of excessive stress within an individual it is a good idea to schedule a 1-2-1 meeting to try to establish whether there are any underlying issues, and to reach out to offer them any support. Usually talking and sharing problems can help a great deal.
If the issues are job-related then leaders should work with the employee to draw up a plan of action to help alleviate any further stress. Perhaps assisting the employee with tips to help with issues such as time management, organisation or priorisation of work – and offering guidance and support in the right direction.
Not all problems can be ‘fixed’ immediately but keeping regular communications and ongoing support ensures that the employee no longer feels isolated.
Stress at work can also be as a result of a challenging situation the business may be facing – such as a tough financial climate, or going through a period of change (i.e. a takeover). Management should therefore ensure that they regularly share and disclose any appropriate information with the whole workforce. This helps to reduce uncertainty about jobs and the future. Build in regular consultations and discussions with all employees during any change and allow them to easily feedback any of their concerns.
4/ Reward and Development
Leaders should regularly praise employees for good work performance, both verbally and officially. Make sure that good performance goes noticed within the company and is well recognised through schemes such as ‘Employee of the Month’ etc.
It is also good practice to provide ample opportunity for career development within the organisation, as some employees can become incredibly dissatisfied if they aren’t given a chance for further development or training. Leaders should ensure that robust and comprehensive performance development review processes are in place and embedded into the culture of the organisation.
5/ Act as role models
Leaders should act as positive role models in any business, however this is even more important in times of high stress at work. If managers are seen to remain calm and professional during highly stressful work situations then it is much easier for employees to feel less pressurized and fully supported.