When people are overwhelmed by the challenges they face at work, feelings of stress can be a natural response. In small doses, and followed by periods of relaxation, stress may not cause problems. But when pressure and stress are sustained and prolonged, exhaustion, inability to concentrate, and health problems can result. While they may perform well enough under stressful conditions for weeks or even months, workers can inevitably break down, becoming less productive, increasingly irritable, and ill to the point where they can no longer function. Yet, sometimes even minor changes to working conditions can alleviate stress considerably, greatly reducing the chances of burnout among essential employees.
The Negative Effects of Stress
It is not surprising that employees may be experiencing high levels of stress. Many Americans may be suffering from anxiety caused by the current economic climate or other stressful circumstances, and are now worried as never before about their financial futures. And for many employees, the workplace has also become more demanding. Cuts in benefits and sometimes in wages, combined with added pressure and bigger workloads due to downsizing or hiring freezes, can lead to high levels of stress. In some types of jobs, employees also have to interact with nervous and complaining customers and suppliers. When staff is unhappy, they are less efficient, less motivated, and more likely to quit. Stress affects more than just morale: It can also affect the bottom line.
Business owners are also feeling the impact of economic volatility, as they work hard to keep their companies competitive and solvent under tough market conditions. While under these pressures, employers may forget that managing and, where possible, helping to ease the stress among their employees is also essential to the survival of their business.
Strategies for Stress Management
Employers seeking to help alleviate their employees’ stress levels may consider ways to make their workload more manageable and give them more time for leisure and exercise. If regular exercise has become impossible for time-pressured employees, managers may want to organize a walking program that encourages workers to go out as a group for a half hour during lunch to stretch their legs or provide brief yoga sessions during breaks. Finding ways for workers to gain access to healthy food choices can improve morale and productivity. Employees should also be encouraged to make time to see their doctors regularly.
In the rush of day-to-day responsibilities, business owners can often forget to simply show appreciation for their hard-working employees. Look for ways to celebrate your team. Surprise everyone by calling a meeting to discuss everything that is going well at your organization. Thank your employees for their dedication, and let them know that you understand their challenges. A positive attitude in the workplace can go a long way toward managing the negative effects of stress. As author Carlos Castaneda said, “The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.”
Another great way to help relieve stress is to empower employees. If the company is facing difficult times, managers may want to sit down with each employee to discuss how the conditions affect his or her job, as well as life outside the workplace. In some cases, employees may be offered flexible working arrangements or the opportunity to save time and money on commuting by working from home part-time. Managers should ask employees to tell them as frankly as possible about the pressures they are facing at work, and discuss strategies to help manage them. A redistribution of the workload or a change in processes or practices could be a simple way to help lighten the burdens of individual employees.
Finally, managers should not forget to ask employees for their ideas on how the company can meet its challenges more successfully. Even in hard times, employees who are actively involved in helping the organization weather tough conditions may feel greater loyalty toward their employer and motivation to perform their jobs well.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
This article was prepared by Liberty Publishing, Inc.
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