We all know there’s a huge physical and emotional toll paid by employees suffering from excessive workplace stress.
However, the costs of this stress are not paid by the individual alone. There’s also collateral damage among family, friends and colleagues; and of course, businesses. If you employ staff, you certainly have a moral and legal obligation to manage their work-related stress levels. But there’s also a solid business case for making a workplace stress management plan a top priority.
Why proactively managing workplace stress should be your top priority
Staff turnover levels tend to be very high within organisations that have endemic workplace stress issues. The negative impacts of this run deep - not only is a valuable resource just walking out your door, but you will now be saddled with increased and perhaps on-going costs of recruitment and training. Furthermore, your business is at risk of gaining a poor employment brand and reputation, meaning the best candidates (often those with options), will start to bypass any of your positions.
Workplace stress also leads to significantly reduced employee engagement and productivity, falling quality of work, poor customer service and increased levels of absenteeism and staff turnover. The insidious nature of excessive stress negatively impacts on workforce morale. The bottom line is that workplace stress can decimate...well...your bottom line!
How to recognise if you have a problem
There’s a negative stigma attached to admitting that you are not coping at work. Many employees will attempt to hide their stress, perhaps until they reach full burnout.
That’s why you need to make it a priority to develop a trusting and supportive culture where people at all levels feel comfortable asking for help. Effective communication across the whole organisation is the critical enabler here
Part of your job as an effective manager is developing a good understanding of each person within your team. This allows you to pick up on any behavioural changes that might be a clue your employee is suffering from excessive stress. You may also need to give other managers in the business training in how to both recognise and deal with stress.
It starts at the top
Effective stress-busting behaviours must be modelled by management. The most effective thing you can do to manage stress levels in your team is set a good example. You should aim wherever possible to work reasonable hours, take breaks, not eat lunch at your desk, exercise regularly and demonstrate that you have a life, with strong interests outside of work.
Formal initiatives that work
A great initiative to try is starting up group-based exercise challenges or team sports with your staff. This will not only help reduce stress and sick days by increasing health and fitness, but it will also have a positive impact on workplace morale generally.
Some organisations also offer Employment Assistance Programmes (EAP) to their staff, as part of a holistic wellness strategy, of which stress management would be one of the considerations.
The importance of staff training
Another important way to reduce workplace stress is ensuring that your staff have adequate training and the necessary tools to perform their job to the best of their ability. This is an ongoing process - existing employees should continually be given the opportunity to refresh their skills.
Do It Now
If you want your team to be engaged, exceeding their targets and representing your business in the best way possible, then you must have a plan for dealing with workplace stress proactively. Using an ad-hoc, band-aid approach to handling individual cases as they arise just won’t cut it. Effective stress management requires every employee at every level of your business to buy into a culture based on trust, support, excellent communication and healthy behaviours.
The costs of leaving it up to chance are just too high.