Employee stress is a major problem for businesses across the country. An increasing number of workdays are lost to stress, and firms’ bottom lines are suffering as a result.
A new survey, published this week by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, suggests that more than one in three employers noted an increase in the amount of time taken off through stress over the past year. This is a major problem, and one that should be taken seriously.
So how can you effectively reduce workplace stress?
Give employees control
A lack of control is one of the most commonly cited reasons for employee stress. All too often, employees find themselves swept along by events. They feel like they are being controlled by their work, rather than the other way round.
Giving your employees control over their work is a vitally important step if you really want to reduce workplace stress. This is, at heart, a question of trust. Many businesses use a top-down, dictatorial system of management simply because they do not trust their employees to do their jobs properly. In reality, though, businesses will almost always get better results when they allow their employees to take the lead. After all, if you don’t trust your employees, why did you hire them in the first place?
Speak early, speak often
Communication is the key in the workplace. As an employer you can reduce stress, and head off problems that are potentially even more severe, by simply talking to your employees.
A worryingly large proportion of businesses have something of a culture of silence. Again, this is to do with top-down management techniques. If you only communicate with your employees when you are telling them what to do, you are likely to be missing problems that could be affecting productivity.
Consider setting up regular meetings with your staff. Encourage them to let you know what they think is working, and what needs improvement. By acting on these concerns you can head off issues that might be causing stress.
Concentrate on the first few months
Understandably, employees often find the first few months of a new job to be the most stressful. If an employee starts off stressed they will often continue to feel this way. You should therefore try to make a new employee’s initial experience of their job as stress-free as possible.
It might be tempting to throw an employee in at the deep end, and simply see how they cope. But this is rarely a successful strategy. Indeed, firms that use this technique tend to have the highest employee turnover – and this is obviously very bad for your bottom line.
Make sure that employees receive the support they need during this crucial period. You might consider, for example, setting up a mentoring scheme that pairs new and existing employees. This can also help to improve general communication throughout the business.
Give employees the resources they need
There is nothing more likely to cause an employee stress than making a demand of them that cannot be fulfilled. When you ask an employee to achieve something, it is vital that they have the resources available to enable them to do that. Broadly speaking this relies on forward planning. You need to make sure that your budget reflects your goals (and vice versa), and that you have the relevant resources in place before you set your employees a task.
It is also worth remembering that your employees will have their own great ideas. After all, that is why you hired them. You should therefore consider setting aside some resources to allow you to experiment with ideas that your workforce bring to the table. As well as providing you with exciting new avenues to explore, this can help to encourage a sense that you are listening to your staff – and this is a key way of reducing stress.
Finally, you should remember that employee management is not all about work. It is important that you foster a sense of community and cooperation amongst your workforce, and social activities are the bedrock of this.
Consider setting up regular social events to help your employees connect better. You might, for example, organise a pool competition, take your staff bowling, or simply put some money behind a bar.
It is important that your employees feel they are not being patronised in these situations. The idea is to foster an environment in which workers can communicate with you and with each other, so informality is the key.
Workplace stress is a major problem. But by taking a few simple steps you can reduce its impact, and improve your efficiency.