While stress has some positive benefits, like keeping us focused on an urgent task or ensuring we are alert to prevent dangerous accidents, stress has created significant negative side effects for us, which have been exponentially magnified in the way we work after a global pandemic. In fact, 51% of employees feel physically drained after an average day’s work a few times a month or more and 25% of employees frequently feel emotionally drained after an average day’s work.
The line between work and life has continued to blur, often resulting in significant burnout.
There are many reasons work can create stress. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes that poor organizational culture, poor work design, ineffective management, and working conditions in addition to the lack of support from colleagues and leaders all contribute to workplace stress. Some warning signs of stress include trouble concentrating, sleeping, or losing interest in work. There can also be physical indicators such as muscle tension, headaches, and stomach problems. All of these outcomes add up. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) has named stress to be a “hazard of the workplace” and estimates of the cost of stress exceeds $190 billion a year in annual healthcare bills. As organizations become more attuned to workplace stress issues, intentional initiatives to alleviate stress must become a priority.
Here are three strategies to consider when supporting the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of your employees.
1. Create an environment that fuels your employees’ resilience.
This is about providing intentional stress-reducing activities for your team members to engage in so they recharge week after week. These can include lunch and learns, quarterly social activities for the community, meditation training, and other wellness-related programs. This can also include scheduling coffee chats with colleagues just to check in and share life.
Resilience occurs when we can recover quickly from difficulties. How can you as a leader contribute to building an environment that increases resilience? Perhaps it’s consistently recognizing your team members when they’ve accomplished something noteworthy – no matter how big or small that was. Another approach is recognizing the stressful events in your team members’ weekly schedule. Fierce has a Pulse app that enables users to link stressful events with their Outlook calendars to pinpoint which meetings or activities create the highest level of stress. Once identified, users can get coached by utilizing Fierce conversation strategies to reduce or prevent future stress related to the specific activity.
2. Create a culture that champions work-life balance.
At Fierce, we believe that culture is created one conversation at a time. The conversations you have with your direct reports, peers, leaders, and cross-functional team members have the opportunity to enrich the quality of each person’s experience of the organization’s culture. How you model work-life balance speaks volumes. As leaders when you encourage your team members to take time off, attend family events, and leave work at work (at decent hours), you are actively creating a culture that champions work-life balance. When you decide to send that email during non-traditional business hours, that sends a message as well…perhaps that you expect it to be read and acted upon even if it is beyond work hours. What kinds of behaviors are you engaging in that might influence the work-life balance of your employees? Are you even aware or intentional about the culture you are creating within your team?
3. Provide clarity and alignment on priorities.
One of my favorite quotes from Brené Brown is: “Clear is Kind. Unclear is unkind.” When we consistently check in on the pulse of our team members, colleagues, clients, and leaders, we can ensure that we are moving forward in the right direction. Without the check-ins, how do we know how we’re doing about where we want to be? Part of ensuring employees are mentally and emotionally well involves consistent conversations on projects, priorities, and expectations. As leaders, some simple yet powerful practices include:
a. Helping employees understand the big picture when assigning new responsibilities.
b. Clearly articulating how many decision-making rights the employee owns in their new responsibility.
c. Ensuring employees know exactly what outcomes you are expecting and by when.
d. Providing the needed resources to set your employees up for success. This includes removing responsibilities that are no longer the best use of their time, ensuring they can take on the new assignment, and adding new resources as needed.
Without all of these practices, we are bound to create stress for our employees, leading to burnout, dissatisfaction, and eventually unnecessary turnover.
While stress is something we cannot avoid, organizations can create strategies that improve the ability of their members to be resilient throughout.