“Let’s get out of this place!” … “I need a break!” … “Where’s the candy?” … “Tomorrow I am taking a mental health day.” In companies both large and small, these phrases can be heard among workers.
According to a 2017 report from the American Psychological Association, work stress is the third most common stressor in American’s lives. What’s contributing most to that work stress, according to a 2017 Paychex study, is missing out on time spent at home.
Employees are stressed for a multitude of reasons including, but not limited to, workload, lack of support, lack of control in decision-making processes, unclear performance expectations and misunderstanding priorities, ineffective time management skills, and failure to implement boundaries on time away from work and use vacation time granted to them.
There are many ways managers can help employees cope with such stresses, though, and here are seven tips to get them started.
Look and listen
As a manager, it is important to pay attention to your employees. When you observe your employees in action, do they appear to be overwhelmed? Are they agitated when speaking with you? Do they express concern or anxiety over a project or deadline? What words are they using to describe their workload? Has their demeanor changed? If you notice that an employee’s mood has changed and he or she appears more stressed than usual, it’s time to initiate a conversation on how you can help.
Managers have a broad view of the department’s productivity and goals, as well as what each employee is working on at any given time. Managers can plan projects and set appropriate deadlines for work. Keep in mind that employees may need guidance on reassessing to-do lists and understanding priorities, direction on how the work is to be completed, and what assistance is available to get work done. Don’t be afraid to get in the trenches with your employees and work side-by-side to complete an important task.
Personality conflicts can be a contributor to stress, and managers play a significant role in fostering teamwork and mediating disputes. It is critical that managers address conflicts both timely and effectively to avoid escalation. Human resources can provide tools and guidance on how to properly investigate, document, and coach employees to resolve their discord.
Employees are people. They have responsibilities and stressors outside of their work. It is critical for employees to recharge after the workday and workweek. Enable employees to have a healthy work-life balance by providing them the opportunity to connect with family and friends – and to rest and take care of themselves.
Managers should encourage employees to limit checking emails after business hours and to take earned vacation time. Supervisors should also be trained in managing employee leaves of absence, knowing what leaves employees are entitled, and supporting employees to take leaves to care for themselves or family members.
Urge employees to take their breaks, stretch, and move around for a few minutes several times a day. A change of scenery can help employees gain a fresh perspective on the task at hand and clear their minds for more creative thinking. Physical activity can aid in alleviating tension and increasing blood flow. Even better, have employees take a break together to foster team building and comradery.
Empower your employees with access to resources that enable resiliency. Employees themselves can be trained on stress management, time management, and conflict resolution to hopefully minimize the incidence of anxiety and depression.
Managers should be the raving fans of the company’s benefit programs, especially those related to mental and physical well-being. An employee assistance program (EAP) is a useful tool for employees experiencing stress or needing to cope with difficult situations. Managers are not professional counselors and should not act as such. Additionally, ensure that the medical plans provided to employees include access to outpatient and inpatient mental health treatment, medication, and counseling.
Many medical insurance companies are now offering teledoctors for individuals who have difficulty seeing a physician face-to-face, as well as perks and discounts to gyms and fitness-related services that employees may not be aware of. Financial difficulties can also lead to employee stress. Providing employees with financial wellness benefits can help them gain control over their financial well-being. It is also important to share these resources throughout the year – not just during open enrollment.
Bottom line: Work is stressful for many people. Managers are in a unique position to help mitigate that stress, coaching and helping employees deal with an avoid many stressful situations. Knowing how and when to help employees navigate stressful relationships and projects is a critical component of managers’ role in helping to foster a productive and engaged workforce.