Stress has become a more-or-less unavoidable aspect of the 21st century workplace. If you go in search of an unstressed employee, you’ll find someone who probably puts in less than 40 hours per week at a job that inspires passion, aligns perfectly with the employee’s future plans, and is just challenging enough to offer a sense of personal reward without presenting a single moment of genuine frustration. Such a job doesn’t really exist in the modern world, so most of us are left with one or two of the above items, but rarely all of them. As it happens, it’s a manager’s job (that means you) to help employees navigate their stress and address it in healthy ways. If your employees need support in this area, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Ask, don’t wait for them to tell you about it.

How can you tell if your employees are experiencing toxic stress? Here’s how NOT to tell: Wait for a personal memo. If you wait, the memo you get will be a resignation letter. Instead, check in regularly with your employees and ask them directly how they’re doing. Assess the workload on their plates, current timelines, and personal bandwidth – make sure all three line up. If they don’t line up, reassign or delegate some of their work and provide support. It’s your task to do so without being asked.

Stress is not just mental.

It’s nice (and also easy) to tell your employees stress is only in their minds. If they do more yoga, get more sleep, and eat healthier food, they’ll feel less stressed. Problem solved…right? Wrong. Some stress comes from our minds, but most of it comes from having more demands on our plates than we can reasonably handle. Yoga won’t fix that, but better leadership will. However you solve the problem (hiring more staff, providing support, increasing pay, granting time off), keep in mind that your employees are your most valuable assets. If stress erodes the quality of their lives, changes will follow, and job changes often come first. Take responsibility; don’t shift it onto others.

Solve problems realistically and methodically.

Are two of your employees not getting along? Are elements of your workplace unsafe? Are your teams facing a future of uncertain employment? These are major workplace stressors, and over the short term, they can lead to poor productivity and mistakes. Over the long term, they lead to turnover. So back up and take a serious, long-term approach to your stress management strategy. Avoid quick fixes (like just ordering your quarrelling employees to get along) and choose serious and lasting solutions (reassigning one or both, or sitting with them and helping them resolve their problem).

Need specific advice on how to reduce stress in your own workplace? Contact the Milwaukee recruiting professionals at Extension and arrange a consultation.


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