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20 Stress Management Techniques for the workplace

It is a simple fact that, in today’s fast-paced world, people are being required to do more and more with less and less.  When everyone (including senior managers) is stretched beyond their capacity, it can be extremely tough for workers to remain calm when things start to go wrong…

Who doesn’t become stressed?

Stress is an inevitable part of life.  Whether it’s the pressure of a new job, children, money or relationships, everyone has their own causes and effects of stress that they have to deal with from time to time.

In fact, so universal is stress as a problem for people all over the world that scientists often describe it as one of the most widespread afflictions of modern times.

In spite of that, though, stress remains a taboo subject in many workplaces.  Indeed, a recent survey showed that 78% of British workers believe their employers try to sweep stress under the carpet.

This is a big mistake – because not only does it make life harder for the many people who are suffering from stress, it’s also bad for business.

Why? Because if managers fail to address stress in their employees early on, then they risk losing skilled workers who are needed to drive company growth.  If that happens, everyone can end up losing out.

So how can you ensure your workplace is a safe, stress-free environment?

There are lots of ways to go about the task, but the numerous strategies can be divided into 20 key categories…

1.  Let your employees know you care

Research has shown time and again that workers who feel they have a manager or company that cares for them are less likely to experience stress than those who feel they are not being properly supported.

Ask yourself these questions…

Do you know the names of your employees’ families?  Do you know their hobbies and interests?  Do you make an effort to get to know them as people, rather than just co-workers?

If the answer is no, then perhaps it’s time to start taking an interest in the people who work for you.  After all, a little bit of effort on your part could help reduce stress and boost morale among your workforce.

2.  Take responsibility for managing projects

It’s common knowledge that managers can easily become overwhelmed when it comes to juggling multiple projects at the same time.  They simply have too much to do, and far too little time in which to do it…

…Which is exactly why project managers are so key in the business world today.

These people take responsibility for ensuring a single project or task is completed on time and under budget compared to their peers.  This gives the manager time to focus on the other responsibilities on their plate.

3.  Encourage workers to take time out

The more stressed someone feels, the harder it is for them to switch off.  A lack of downtime can make employees more likely to lash out at colleagues or become irritable with customers.

Research also shows that overworked staff members are less productive because they’re too tired to concentrate.  They spend more time dealing with stress related issues, and that means they get little work done.

Here are some tips…

Encourage employees to meet friends for lunch or organize regular after-work social activities.  That way, they’ll be able to leave the office at the end of each working day and recharge their batteries, knowing that they’ll be back in the office feeling refreshed the next morning.

4.  Schedule regular team activities

Whether it’s bowling or a paint-balling event, organizing occasional outings can help break down barriers between employees who normally don’t communicate with one another.

This makes it easier for them to bond, leading to a happier workforce.

5.  Encourage staff members to eat well

Long hours at the office tend to lead people towards unhealthy eating habits, with takeaways and vending machine snacks often replacing healthier options like fruit and salads.

That’s why it’s important that managers offer snacks at regular intervals throughout the day.  To make it easier, why not set up a “tuck shop” in your office where employees can buy goodies?

6.  Learn to say no

For managers who are already overstretched, this one might be hard to follow in practice!  Nevertheless, learning to refuse requests where possible is vital for keeping your stress levels down.

People who are overwhelmed by their workload tend to take on more than they can realistically handle, which leads to further stress and even burnout.

7.  Set clear office hours

There’s nothing like the freedom of unlimited working time to make employees feel stressed out!

It’s all too easy for workers to feel that if they don’t work their socks off, then they’ll fall behind.  That’s why it’s vital that managers set clear office hours and stick to them rigidly.

Good managers will ensure a good work-life balance by encouraging employees to go home at a reasonable time each evening.    They also won’t expect staff members to work on weekends or through their lunch break.

8.  Lead by example

One of the best ways for managers to show staff members that work-life balance is important is by leading by example themselves.  If they refuse to do so, then employees will quickly lose faith in the company and feel like there’s no point in trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Good managers will also ensure that they don’t trump their employees by working harder than them – or longer hours.  To create the right impression, they’ll keep regular office hours and not overstep any boundaries.

9.  Take advantage of technology

Work-life balance isn’t just about time managementproductivity is also key.

Modern managers don’t have to stick with old methods of communication such as email and phone calls 24/7.  Technological advances mean it’s now possible for staff members to log in during off-peak hours if necessary, or carry out work-related tasks from home where appropriate.

They can also encourage employees to make good use of their time by granting them access to the latest in office technology.  Whether it’s a laptop or tablet, this will allow staff members to carry out tasks when they’re on the move and not chained to a desk.

10.  Remember that employees come first

Modern companies often operate a “work hard, play hard” culture.  That means staff members are expected to push themselves and work long hours, but it’s vital that managers ensure employees take time out for family and friends too.

If an employee has a family event or other commitment scheduled during office hours, then managers should make sure it’s rescheduled.

Similarly, managers shouldn’t expect staff members to work through their lunch break or on weekends unless there are exceptional circumstances – and even then should at least offer flexibility where possible.

11.  Set up a “time out” policy

At the end of each day, managers should check in with employees and find out how they’re doing.    If there are any issues, then staff members should be encouraged to raise them so that managers can deal with them as quickly as possible.

The same approach can be applied at the end of each week.  That will give employees a chance to look back on their achievements and see what they’re doing well, as well as any areas where they can improve.

12.  Encourage a healthy lifestyle

A company’s work-life balance policy should also involve encouraging employees to live healthier lifestyles outside of work.  That not only means eating sensibly and exercising regularly, but avoiding too much alcohol at the weekend or after office hours.

Managers can help by making sure staff members are rewarded for their efforts – whether it’s giving them time off work to go to the gym or taking them out for lunch occasionally.  It’s also vital that managers lead by example themselves, so they should encourage staff members to eat well and take breaks outside of the office when necessary.

13.  Open up opportunities for staff to speak out

It’s vital that managers encourage a culture of open dialogue and discussion – which will help employees voice their concerns if they’re feeling under pressure or stressed at work.   Managers should show staff members respect and be approachable, so they can feel confident about consulting them when necessary.

Staff members should also feel free to talk amongst themselves about work-related issues, especially when they have a colleague who’s struggling with their workload.  Managers shouldn’t be afraid of being challenged, as long as it’s within reason and done in a respectful manner.

14.  Employee assistance programs in place

Work-life balance policies will only be effective if staff members believe they can turn to their managers for help.  Managers should encourage employees to use the services of an employee assistance program (EAP) where possible, so they can access counselling and discuss any issues with a professional outside of work hours.

It’s vital that managers ensure their employees are aware of the EAP’s existence, where they can go to access its services and how long it will take for sessions to be scheduled.

15.  Take advantage of workplace flexibility

Work-life balance policies must ensure that employees are allowed flexibility during office hours depending on their personal situation. For example, if an employee has children, they may need to leave early on occasion so they can get them from school.

Such flexibility is more likely to be granted if employees have proved themselves in their roles, or if managers are confident of hitting their targets even without everyone working full-time hours.  Managers should encourage staff members to tell them of any outside commitments that may affect their work hours, and should take a genuine interest in their home life.

16.  Promote happy hours

Another way managers can demonstrate that they care about work-life balance is to organize regular “happy hours” where employees can meet up outside of office hours.  These events are not only great opportunities for staff members to socialize with each other, but focus on work-related issues as well.

Managers can lead the discussions and ask about employees’ achievements over the past week or how they’re getting to grips with their tasks.  They should also be available to answer any queries and provide training and support where necessary.

17.    Promote company social events

Another way managers can promote work-life balance is by organizing company social events.  These don’t have to be expensive or lavish, but can involve taking staff members out for dinner or on trips away.  They should also be encouraged to socialize outside of work hours, so managers should offer to accompany employees on after-work drinks or other events.

Managers should aim for one company activity at least every quarter, ideally taking place around an office away day when everyone can bond together outside of the workplace.  It’s also important that managers get involved in the process of selecting a location or venue.

18.  Managers should take the lead

If managers are serious about working on improving work-life balance, they need to put some time aside themselves and show that they’re still dedicated to their roles even outside of office hours.  Managers should demonstrate to employees that they’re willing to go the extra mile and work on their own time, if necessary.

This will encourage staff members to also give work their all, which in turn should mean they feel more comfortable turning down overtime when it isn’t really needed.  Managers shouldn’t be afraid of working overtime themselves though, as this will only help convince employees of their commitment.

19.  Seek employee feedback

One of the most effective methods of ensuring your employees are motivated and happy at work is to ask for their feedback.  This can be done with a series of one-on-one meetings, or via company surveys sent out via email or in print.

In these sessions, managers should ask for employees’ thoughts on how work could be improved or what changes they’d like to see.  Managers should also aim to establish whether any issues raised are to do with the way they organize their team’s workload, in which case, action can be taken immediately.

20.  Make it fun

Finally, managers need to remember that work-life balance isn’t just about taking off the time employees actually need for themselves.  It’s also important to involve them in fun and creative activities so they can take a break from their daily routine, while still feeling connected with the team and company.

Many companies try to achieve this through charity events or volunteer work, while others make Christmas or summer parties a time for everyone to unwind.  Every company is different, but managers should aim to involve employees by coming up with activities they think will work best for their team.

So there you go, 20 simple ways in which managers can help improve work-life balance in the workplace.  We hope that you find them useful and that they help you to create a positive atmosphere in your company where employees feel appreciated and motivated.