The nature and the setting of the work that we do today, makes an expected invitation to stress. Some believe stress is good, in fact necessary to drive excellence and growth. Others believe a stress-free and calm environment does the job. There are several jobs which are deemed more stressful than others, or some that become more stressful certain times of the year. For example, the job of a TV or newspaper journalist is likely to be stressful all throughout, whereas that of a tax accountant is likely to be when the financial year comes to an end. The bottom-line is that different people react differently to stressful situations, and therefore, to assume that having a constant pressure to work under is likely to do definite harm or good is flawed. While a little stress or pressure might act as a catalyst, if it becomes excessive, stress might take the form of physiological or psychological ill-health, and have a detrimental effect on work efficiency and relationships.
The complexity of the how working under pressure has become the new norm is realised only when we take a second to realise how often we romanticize the idea of working a stressful job. It’s almost as if it is taken to a sign of importance, success or assuming that it comes with the job. A lot of discourse that happens around the topic of stress and pressure in a workplace is directed towards employees, who are motivated and encouraged to strike better work-life balance. This article will digress and put the spotlight on the managers, bosses and employers, and guide them to help their employees during stressful situations:
Find the cause of the pressure: Do not assume it is only the sheer quantity of the work that is causing stress to employees or certain employees. Probe deeper and ascertain whether the cause of stress is a conflict with someone else in the team, being uncertain about the job and their career in general, or uncomfortable working conditions etc. Life-events outside work, like loss of a loved one, divorce or ill health can cause a great deal of stress. It might not always be clear to assess whether the stress is work related or due to private situations, but it is always advisable for you to offer what you can to help the situation. Talk to your employee in a compassionate manner, and understand what you can do to make the situation better. It is best to offer some time off, in times of private situations, for the employee will be distracted at work anyway, and will operate under their prime efficiency.
Acknowledge more than you regularly do: If you know that your department/organisation has been working extra hard, reeling under pressure, and yet delivering results – make sure the recognition and rewards also match the work. Acknowledge your employees, more often, and more generously than you would generally do. Acknowledge the fact that the pressure has been on, and that they have been performing well under it. As a team, thank the employees for the all-nighters, and the weekends that they put in. Make these acknowledgements and recognitions in private, as well as public conversations. Furthermore, make sure everyone is paid over-time, according to the company policy.
Create a support system: While some people may excel under pressure, some might stumble a little. For the latter, create a support system that entails a time-management plan, which many include helping them prioritizing tasks, setting goals, planning for the future, and allotting work to others wherever possible. Training in terms of self-management and assertiveness can be provided to help them combat stress better. Fostering a system wherein they can reach out and seek support from other managers, HR or top management will help them get accustomed to the work. If they are simply unable to take care of the workload, special attention must be given to them, to hone and train them in smaller tasks, until they can carry bigger projects them self. It is important to provide constant feedback to all the employees operating under pressure, and let them know how well they are doing, or how they can improve.
Be Flexible and be open to listening: Systems and processes are truly tested in high-stress situations, and it is helpful if the manager is open to change them, even if momentarily, to suit the needs. Even during the busy days, someone might have a legitimate reason to take some time off of work and unless it majorly impacts your larger team goals, let them take that time off. Make room for employees to come up with innovative suggestions and ideas about achieving the deadline faster and better, and use the best of their proposals. Be receptive to the needs of the employees, even if it means getting regular good quality coffee.
Kick-start a wellness Programme: If you don’t have one already, start one now! No matter how big or small your organisation is, a multi-faceted wellness programme doesn’t need much. Start small: place some yoga mats in the lunch room and play basic yoga videos on the LCD instead of the news, replace the coffee with the green tea, include dry fruits and nuts as snacks with tea, set a 15-miunte time-out de-stress meeting at a fixed time and do a fun exercise during it, or even if you don’t, just do not end up using that time to discuss work. The options are unlimited; all you have to show is a real commitment to the well-being of your employees.
For a team, and an organisation to be successful, the people that work in it need to at their best. Stress doesn’t bring out the best in people; on the contrary ill health and prolonged sickness can reduce efficiency by scores. Continued stressful situations at work can ultimately mean that individuals will begin losing motivation, be prone to making mistakes and just disconnect with the organisation on the whole, but taking small yet effective steps can help managers and employers combat this situation. Stress comes naturally today with work, but a little coordinated effort from the employee and the employer, and it doesn’t have to be that way.
How does your organisation help you fight stress? Let us know in the comments below!