There’s no getting about this—the workplace will be somewhere stressful. It may not be so all the time, or even a lot of the time. But there will be events, days, or even weeks where the pressure starts to pile up, nerves become frayed, and people start to dread to come into work in the morning. During these times productivity will suffer, personalities will clash, and you’ll experience a spike in sick days and absenteeism.
As an employer, you will want as much as possible to avoid these scenarios. When you can’t, you’ll want to mitigate the effects of stress instead. But how can this be achieved?
It’s important to recognize the choice of the word “leader.” In today’s business parlance, we try to avoid terms such as “boss,” “director,” and “overseer” because these terms carry a very heavy top-down connotation. “Leader,” in contrast, implies a much more equal partnership, where rather than making demands managers instead inspire and lead by example.
The same applies when managing workplace stress. You can’t order someone to stop being stressed. If anything, that just amplifies it. But there are other constructive ways in which a leader can make their workplace far less stressful and far more pleasant to work in.
Keep your head
Whether they’re conscious of it or not, your team will look to you and follow your example in the workplace. If the heat is on and you’re visibly panicking yourself, do not be surprised if the situation starts to spiral out of control from there. After all, if it looks like the management are worried about the state of affairs, then it will really look bad to those on the floor.
Your team will look to you and follow your example.
So the most important key to reducing workplace stress is to avoid getting visibly stressed as well. This can be hard to do, but the results are manifold.
Make sure that you continue to come into work every day on time, that you are seen actively working, and that you continue to maintain a positive attitude to your colleagues. Your team will be assured that whatever is going on, the management seems to have a plan and knows what to do. It creates a sense that it’s business as usual, and the maintenance of the status quo will encourage everyone to get on with their jobs.
Set clear, manageable goals
Ultimately, it’s in keeping everyone busy and occupied that stress can be reduced. Usually the anxiety comes not so much from hard work as being unable to do anything about it. This loss of control and sense of powerlessness upsets people, and makes them inclined to fret and worry rather than get on with the things that they can do.
During times of stress, make sure everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing and how it can be achieved.
This helps keep their minds focused on their jobs rather than things that may well be beyond the realms of their control, keeps them productive, and helps them think that things are still proceeding.
Make sure that your team knows what is going on.
Likewise, always make sure that your team knows what is going on. You don’t need to tell them more than they need to know, but keeping them abreast of the situation prevents rumors and worrying. Your team will also appreciate being kept in the loop.
Be sensitive to your team’s needs
As the pressure increases, find ways to ease it.
One simple, yet highly effective, method is to be generous with breaks. During particularly busy periods, permit team members time to step away from their work and chill out for a few minutes. Let them get a coffee, have a quick walk about, and refocus before they return to their work. A similar strategy is to try and make sure that work balance is equally divided. Never leave someone with especially stressful or hectic tasks for too long—always provide opportunities for them to step away and be replaced for a bit.
Some studies have indicated that the most efficient break pattern is for someone to work for 90 minutes, then break for twenty. Consider something along these lines if you sense your workforce is especially overworked.
Make a habit of sitting down and chatting with your team as well. Touch base from time to time and chat with your team to see if anything is bothering them. Further to the “lead by example” point mentioned earlier, encourage a working environment where your team feels comfortable talking to you about their workload. Work with them to find suitable solutions if something about their job is driving especially crazy that day.
Build a team
Remind everyone that they’re all in this together, and that no one should be struggling on their own. Where communication and relationships between colleagues break down, it’s a surefire way to ensure that their work becomes hampered as they become unable or unwilling to work with each other.
Try to establish an environment where the team is encouraged to work alongside and with each other. Share workloads between them and have them collaborate towards a shared goal. Encourage them to chat regularly with each other.
Sharing the workload between themselves also reduces the overall amount of anxiety the work can cause, improving their overall attitude and making their tasks all the easier.
If time allows, you can consider hosting team-building events and exercises as well.
Recognize and reward hard work
Nothing makes a colleague feel more valued than having their work acknowledged. It doesn’t even have to be anything especially major or significant. If you notice that someone’s been consistently achieving their targets, make mention of it and congratulate them for it. If they handle an especially difficult task well, take a moment to thank them.
If you notice someone achieving their targets, congratulate them.
On those occasions where something truly remarkable occurs, take a moment in the day to call the team together and highlight the good work the colleague or colleagues are doing.
Inspired to improve your own management style? Leadership is an important element in every Hult program. Take a look at what we have on offer this year.