High Workplace Stress Hurts Everyone
A recent survey by Monster Canada found that 58 percent of people surveyed say they feel overworked and about one-third blame an increasing workload for their stress. In addition, one in four people have quit their job because of work related stress.
Millennials are the most likely to feel overwhelmed by work, with about 63 percent of this cohort feeling this way. Compare this to the 57 percent of those between 35 and 44 who say they are overworked and 50 percent of people over the age of 45 who say the same.
Millennials are also more likely to leave their jobs because of stress, with 29 percent saying they would do so.
Regardless of age, stressed employees are less productive, less engaged, and – as can be seen by the survey stats – more likely to quit their jobs. This is detrimental for organizations as high turnover doesn’t just mean more frequent recruiting, hiring, and training, but it can also negatively impact the reputation of the organization.
So, what can leaders do to reduce stress at work?
Reducing Stress in the Workplace
Leaders have a lot of influence over the mood and feel of their work environment. Even in situations when leaders needs to push their teams and increase their workload, it’s still often possible to do so in a manner that is manageable and not too stressful. By engaging employees in identifying the specific things that cause stress, and what actions could be taken to minimize them, leaders can empower the team to find creative ways to support each other, take mini-breaks and still work through a particularly busy time at work.
Managing stress levels is important. If you know that your organization is about to go through a busy period, reach out to your team in advance and explain the situation to them. This will allow them to prepare themselves for increased work. Listening with an open mind to concerns they raise and let them know what help is available to them. Perhaps you can provide health snacks throughout the day to keep people’s energy levels high, or order in dinner when people are working late. Find out what will be most helpful to your team.
Sometimes, you’ll find that people are stressed not just because of work, but because of personal situations that make it difficult to fully engage in their work. In other cases, you might find that someone is stressed because they don’t have the right tools or training to work effectively. By talking with your team frequently and taking a temperature check, you’ll have a greater understanding of the stressful situations and be able to work together to find solutions.
Set Clear Goals
Team members can get stressed out when they’re not sure what they’re supposed to be working on and what work should take priority. They can also feel overwhelmed when they have a mountain of work to get through and they can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. Leaders can alleviate these stressors by setting clear goals and communicating with transparency. This helps people know what to focus on, gives them direction, and lets them properly budget their time, which reduces anxiety and stress.
Lead by Example
If your team sees you sitting down at your desk in the early morning, working through lunch, staying late, and then sending emails until midnight (or beyond), they’ll feel as though they should be doing the same. However, all employees (including yourself) are more productive when they take breaks. Set an example by taking time away from work throughout the day, getting up from your desk to socialize, going for a walk or to the gym and taking time to decompress as needed. Your team will start doing the same and this will make them more productive and less stressed overall.
Build Strong Relationships
Encourage your team members to bond with one another. When people have real, lasting relationships at work, they communicate more effectively, work better together, enjoy their jobs more, and have less stress. Good working relationships also mean fewer interpersonal conflicts, which results in less stress. Work friendships also give team members someone they can rely on when work gets difficult. Sometimes it’s a helping hand to get some extra work done, or lending an ear when a team member needs to vent and blow off some steam. Have a strong relationship with colleagues helps employees ‘weather the storms’ and push through during difficult times.
Schedule team-building events, luncheons, and after-work events to build a sense of community at work. Encourage team members to work together to problem solve and give them opportunities to bond over more than just work projects. While you may not be able to schedule fun team events during busy times, make sure to do so as soon as work schedules ease up. It is important that strong relationships be formed or reinforced before the next round of intense work occurs.
As mentioned, sometimes the work itself isn’t what is causing stress for your team. Managing life’s responsibilities in addition to work commitments can cause anxiety and strain. We certainly encounter that in our family as both my husband and I travel for work. Getting everything done and making time for family activities can be very challenging, especially when we are in separate parts of the country. If possible, provide flexible work schedules. This can make it easier to manage work and life. Nearly everyone on your team will appreciate a more flexible schedule, especially younger employees who expect to be able to blend their personal lives into a fluid work style.
You may not be able to let people permanently work from home or leave early every Friday, but you might be able to offer rolling start times, occasional remote work, and time during the day to tackle a few errands as long as work is still being completed. Be honest with yourself and the team about what is critical to accomplish and what can be delayed or deferred. Often times leaders label too many things as “high priority and high urgency” when in fact that isn’t the case.
It’s a good idea to focus on what gets done rather than when it gets done. Spend less time worrying about making sure everyone sits down at 9am and leaves after 5pm (or whatever work schedule you have), and focus your efforts on making sure projects are completed, deadlines are met, and the quality of work is high. This will decrease stress since people will be able to work more autonomously and will be empowered to achieve results without feeling the additional stress of being monitored and micro-managed.