If you have noticed increased stress in those you supervise recently, you’re not alone.
A sour economy is forcing everyone to try to do more with less. And that can lead to greater stress on you, your staff, and the entire organization.
Signs that employees are overstressed include increased absences, short tempers, lack of focus, increased time on the phone or internet, and, in more serious cases, depression (extreme hopelessness about the future) and anxiety.
Employees are often reticent about making you aware of just how much stress they are under. They don’t want you to think they can’t handle their jobs.
Since we already know that many employees are over-stressed right now, you can be proactive and begin offering the following that will help reduce their daily and chronic stress:
1. Offer flexible schedules.
Beyond traditional “flex time” arrangements, allowing individuals to flexibly manage their schedules has been shown to reduce the stress of juggling job and personal responsibilities. It also resulted in better sleep, and, in some cases, increased exercise. Allowing individual flexibility can be trickier to track, but the result is a healthier, more productive staff.
2. Use “One Minute Praisings.”
Busy leaders often forget the importance of positive feedback. Kenneth Blanchard wrote about One Minute Praisings in his outstanding book The One Minute Manager. To summarize the technique:
- praise immediately when you see someone do the right things,
- tell them specifically what they did well,
- tell them how good you feel about what they did and how it contributes to the organization’s larger goals,
- pause for a few seconds to let them feel the goodness,
- encourage them to do more of the same in the future
3. Use time off as a reward.
Studies of motivation show that non-monetary rewards are often more prized by employees than money. Time off can have benefits for the staff that improve their mental and physical health. When possible, especially when employees are putting in long hours, offer time off as a perk.
4. Offer Free or Discounted On-Site Massage
Nearly every major city these days has massage therapists with “mobile” staffs who can come to your office and provide brief stress-relieiving massages. Schedule them over lunch or just after work hours. It may cost less than you think, or the massage provider may offer a discounted rate directly to employees for the opportunity to work with your company.
5. Meet regularly with each employee.
Employees are more likely to discuss stressors during regularly scheduled meetings with you than if they have to make an appointment to bring the problem to you. Consider having regular (at least monthly) meetings that give you a chance to touch base, one-on-one, with each person you supervise. Review what’s going well, what isn’t, and what they think might help change the things that aren’t running smoothly.
Don’t wait for an acute event to grab your attention. Taking action to help reduce the stress in your organization will pay off now and in the future.