The recent flurry of news and information around World Health Day had us thinking about a manager’s responsibilities for the health of their teams.
Work related stress is unfortunately becoming increasingly common, with damaging impact on the individual and also the organisation, in lost working days, decreased productivity and efficiency, and brand value.
As a leader, you have a duty of care to those within your team, to support and empower them, and help them achieve their full potential. You need to be in touch with those around you and aware of the motivations and morale of your colleagues.
So how do you know if an employee is suffering from stress?
- Over-reacting to other people’s opinions, increasingly irritable, negative, anxious, disengaged with others and their work in general
- Abnormal behaviour, poor concentration, more time out of the office, causing a reduction in productivity
For the sake of your colleagues and your business, you need to avoid this situation at all costs, but what can you actually do?
We know longer working hours and intense demands are key causes of workplace stress, additional factors cited by employees are linked to poor management, organisation and structure, including:
- Excessive workloads
- Lack of role clarity and conflicting demands
- Not being involved in decisions that affect the individual or any say in the way work is done
- Job insecurity or badly managed change within the organisation
- Poor communication and lack of support
Once you know the cause of the anxiety, it becomes much easier to adopt an effective solution. There are a few simple ways to help prevent unhealthy workplace pressure and a stressful environment for your teams:
- Be realistic with workloads and deadlines
Whilst you may want to challenge your teams, make sure you’re not adding pressure by giving them unachievable targets or deadlines – always be clear about your expectations and time frames and be receptive to feedback. Your colleagues should feel that they can share any concerns about their workload without being judged.
- Communicate effectively with employees
As a leader, you need to practice open, two-way communication. Your teams need to be kept informed about proposed changes, their performance, and your expectations in the workplace. They need to feel they can share their concerns, thoughts, and ideas and these will be considered and taken seriously, without judgement. Any departmental changes and developments should be shared in a timely fashion as any void in communication will be filled by speculation, rumour or gossip, which can be much more damaging.
- Lead by example
One thing about emotions is that they are contagious. Therefore try not to allow your stress, frustration, anger or negativity to show or be taken out on any employee. Make sure you manage your emotions at work, that you take regular breaks and have a healthy work-life balance and an open door policy.
- Engage your employees
Take every effort to connect your company and the individual’s goals, involve your teams in decisions that affect them, support their work-life balance, get to know them and build trust in a genuine way.
- Enable resources
Ensure there are enough people, equipment, and funds for your teams to achieve goas and objectives. As a leader, give clear guidance and information, make sure there are no delays to decision making and reduce your team’s exposure to unnecessary political pressures internally or externally.
- Be flexible
The work environment is changing as are people’s expectations from their work. While not practical for all organisations, consider how you can offer some flexibility in when and where employees work. You can still manage remote working or flexible time schedules by outlining clear parameters and expectations and through open communication, and it demonstrates trust in your employees.
- Power their drive
Provide your teams with a high-energy environment to work in. Support their career and personal growth, and associate them with potential income, whilst being reasonable in allocating time, consistent with the abilities of the individual.
- Help them to be happy at work
We talked through the importance of happiness at work in last week’s blog post here. We’ve listed plenty of ways to make the workplace a more enjoyable place to be – take a look and let us know if you have any more to add!
As a leader it can be very easy to contribute to employee stress levels without even being aware of it. There is a thin line that separates motivation, and pushing too hard, and when you step over it, you subject your workers to increased pressures and anxiety, compromising their productivity and the profitability of the team. Therefore it is essential to talk to teams regularly and openly, and come up with SMART (specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic and time-bound) goals. These simple things will help set your team up to win, improving the atmosphere in the workplace, increasing employee engagement, and enhancing profitability and productivity.