The term “being stressed” is overused and is attributed to almost anything we face in our daily lives – traffic, bad weather, busy schedules or traveling. However, in reality there are certain situations that we that we need to deal with that can cause real and significant negative stress. I was just speaking with a client who has an employee who is under a tremendous amount of stress. She is dealing an aging parent, a sick spouse and a major renovation to her home. When employees face major life challenges (which they will), how can we as leaders help support them, while ensuring that business targets are still met?
According to Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, the top 10 most stressful life events in our lives are:
1. Death of a spouse
3. Marital separation
5. Death of a close family member
6. Personal injury or illness
8. Dismissal from work
9. Marital reconciliation
When one or more of these life events are combined in a year, the changes for illness increase due to the impact of stress.
Many employees are likely to encounter one or more of these events. The impact that they can have on their ability to perform in their roles and balance their personal and professional lives are significant. Your ability to support employees during difficult and stressful times will help maintain engagement levels of your high performers, will demonstrate a genuine interest and care in your team member’s well-being and will set a positive examples to others in your organization.
The best way to support employees facing high levels of stress is to avoid adding any additional stress by being an effective leader. Your management style can have an impact on stress, so it is important that you are aware of good management practices and that you develop your management skills. Increase your communication, minimize micromanagement, and facilitate team collaboration. These will all improve the work environment and reduce stress on all employees. It is also important that you recognize the signs of stress in your team and know what support to give team members who may be suffering from stress.
The research suggests that there are several things you can do to help employees when they are facing stressful situations, they are:
- Treat stressed employees in the same way as those with a physical health problem
- Discuss the issue with the employee and demonstrate that you are concerned about their health
- If work is affected, discuss the problem with your Human Resources adviser or refer the employee to your occupational health colleagues
- Ask if there is anything you can do to help
- Consider any simple adjustments to work to minimize stress
- Advise the employee of resources available to them that are provided by your organization (i.e. Employee Assistance Program)
- Conduct regular follow up meetings with employees facing high levels of stress and continue to demonstrate your wish to support them
- Monitor sickness absence. If an employee has frequent short absences or is absent with a stress related illness, contact your HR colleagues for advice
- Review, and if necessary, modify the work tasks and responsibilities of individuals who have had sickness absence due to stress or depression, and continue to monitor their progress
With your support and care, employees facing high level of stress can regain a better work / life balance more quickly which will benefit their well-being and that of your team.