Inevitably work involves stress sometimes. Deadlines, having to meet other people’s expectations, trying to figure out what those expectations are, project bottlenecks. All these and more are common and natural in the workplace.
People can deal with short periods of higher stress, such as meeting a tight deadline for an important account, but too much stress too often negatively affects the body and mind. A brain under too much stress cannot think clearly. People may become tired, irritable, anxious or apathetic, which in turn negatively affects performance.
Here are six ways you can help prevent stress in the workplace so your team can perform at their best.
Communication is the bedrock of a healthy, well functioning workplace. From our ancient routes as cave dwellers living amongst wild animals we feel fear and anxiety if we don’t know what’s going on. Our ancestors lives depended on sharing knowledge about what was safe to eat, which rocks were slippery and where the predators were lurking. Still today we have the same instincts to find out what’s going on around us. We can feel stressed, anxious and edgy if we don’t think we have the full picture or people are keeping things from us.
It’s much easier to jump to negative conclusions than positive ones for most people. This is because avoiding negative things which could harm you is higher priority than looking out for the good things. Keep people informed on company strategy even if you don’t think it’s relevant to their particular job. Everyone on the ship wants to know where it’s heading. Send a regular email or have update meetings to let employees know about new accounts won, changes in structure and strategy etc. Make sure your team don’t feel in the dark.
Also make it clear what you expect from your team. Clear responsibilities and procedures allow people to relax more because they know what they need to do. Reducing uncertainty reduces stress.
2. Keep an open door
Be sure your team know you are available to talk with them. Be approachable and let them know you are there to help. Make staff aware of procedures for reporting any issues too. Your team should know what to do if they or one of their colleagues has an issue.
Often people struggle alone with problems for far too long which leads to stress and anxiety. There may be easy solutions but because they don’t want to appear weak or stupid they keep it to themselves. Build a culture where feedback, questions and suggestions are welcome. You will be surprised what you will learn which will not only help staff but also your bottom line.
3. Treat your team as individuals
There is no ‘I’ in team but there should be. Every team is made of members, each with their own needs and desires. Take into account your team have a life beyond work. Supporting staff with issues they face in their personal life can make them less stressed at work and more productive. Flexible hours can go a long way to reduce the pressure on parents, those caring for a loved one and staff managing their own health conditions. Mentoring and coaching can help people find options when they feel stuck. How else could you help?
4. Look out for changes in team dynamics
Teams are living, breathing creatures which need constant tending. A new member can throw off the team dynamic. Changes in the behaviour of an existing member can create stress and anxiety for others. Reach out to your team when you notice a shift. If something isn’t working they won’t always come to you.
5. Create a healthy culture
Team members will take their lead from you so be an example. If you are always at work at the crack of dawn and the last person to leave at night they may well try to emulate you. However those extra hours they’re spending at work are not necessarily productive. The human brain can only function at a high level for around five hours a day. Trying to keep up that pace can negatively affect the quality of their work as their body and mind needs more rest.
Make it clear that you take breaks and have a life beyond work. Encourage your team to do the same. A well rested staff member will cope much better with the day to day stresses of work.
As part of a healthy working environment it’s a good idea to offer well-being activities to support staff too. Sports, meditation, 1:1 coaching, there are many options to choose from. Employing a professional service like ours to offer well-being workshops and coaching can be a great benefit too as your staff will learn to manage their own stress and anxieties.
6. Provide personal development
What was acceptable last year or last month isn’t necessarily fine today. People like to feel they are making progress. Nobody wants to feel like they are stuck not going anywhere. Humans are built to achieve and grow, otherwise we would all be content with the first job we ever get and stay there forever.
Feeling you are not challenged and have no options can lead to stress and anxiety. Creating pathways for staff to gain more skills and responsibility as well as money can re-engage them in their current role and dissipate the anxiety.
Making an improvement in just one of the above areas can make a significant difference in lowering stress levels in the workplace. Treating people as individual, whole beings with a life beyond work goes a long way. When your staff feel supported the workplace can be a calmer, more productive and a happier place.
If you would like help with reducing stress levels in the workplace and improving well-being and productivity I offer 1:1 coaching, group workshops and talks. For more information, you contact me directly (see the button below).