Stress is at an all-time high globally. Numerous health reports issued by organisations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have offered a startling insight into the state of our mental health in the age of COVID-19, with reports of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation being significantly higher following the outbreak of COVID-19 when compared with 2019.
Stress is often inescapable when it comes to the workplace as well, but as we face a new normal, with many individuals working from home offices, traditional workplace stress has also taken on a new form. Remote workers are now putting in longer hours while they struggle to deal with other responsibilities such as homeschooling children and managing a household.
In addition to this, there are other causes of work-related stress as well. Some of those include:
- Excessively high workloads, with unrealistic deadlines making people feel rushed, under pressure, and overwhelmed.
- Insufficient workloads, making people feel that their skills are being underused.
- A lack of control over work activities.
- A lack of interpersonal supportor poor working relationships leading to a sense of isolation.
- Bullying or harassment.
- A blame culture within your company where people are afraid to get things wrong or to admit to making mistakes.
In nearly every one of these scenarios, however, communication can easily remedy the issue at hand. Unfortunately, the truth is that not enough employers are actively communicating with their teams when it comes to stress. Mental and emotional health are very much still on the backburner these days, but with the issue coming more and more into the limelight, places of employment are beginning to see why it’s so essential that we talk about the elephant in the room (stress) and work together toward developing solutions when it comes to managing it.
After all, according to HelpGuide.org: “having your employees suffering from work-related stress can result in lower productivity, lost workdays, and a higher turnover of staff. As a manager, supervisor, or employer, though, there are things you can do to lower workplace stress.”
Is it time to open the communication lines with your employees where it concerns stress?
HelpGuide, in collaboration with Harvard Health Publications, offers these tips:
Consult your employees
- Talk to them about the specific factors that make their jobs stressful. Some things may be relatively straightforward to address.
- Communicate with your employees one-on-one. Listening attentively will make an employee feel heard and understood—and help to lower their stress and yours—even if you’re unable to change the situation.
- Give workers opportunities to participate in decisions that affect their jobs.
- Be sure the workload is suitable to employees’ abilities and resources; avoid unrealistic deadlines.
- Get employee input on work rules, when possible. If they’re involved in the process, they’ll be more committed.
- Deal with workplace conflicts in a positive way.
- Share information with employees to reduce uncertainty about their jobs and futures.
- Clearly define employees’ roles, responsibilities, and goals.
- Make management actions fair and consistent with organisational values.
Offer rewards and incentives
- Praise good work performance verbally and organisation-wide.
- Respect the dignity of each employee; establish a zero-tolerance policy for harassment.
- Show that individual workers are valued and appreciated and that job stress is taken seriously.
- Schedule potentially stressful periods followed by periods of fewer tight deadlines.
Stress can be difficult to deal with, but it doesn’t have to dominate the workplace. If you want to help your employees manage stress, then communicating with them is the first step toward doing that.
When you consult them, clarify expectations, and offer rewards and incentives in the process, you’re maintaining an open-door policy that allows communication to thrive in the workplace and thus enables all parties involved to deal with their stress head-on and manage it in healthier ways.