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Managing workplace stress in your team

Written by:
Paula Coster

BA (Hons), MSc.
Associate Member CIEHF

Workplace stress, according to studies, can be a substantial source of continuous tension, anxiety, depression, and burnout. In addition, the effects of work-related stress extend far beyond the workplace often causing significant emotional pain, health issues, and relationship problems. Now, more than ever, managers need to learn how to manage workplace stress.

Recent research shows that 42 per cent of employees worldwide have experienced a decline in mental health over the last two years.

From the company’s perspective, workplace stress is known to have a number of effects: decreased morale and productivity, lack of communication, absenteeism, significant employee turnover, and revenue loss.

As a result, the organisational cost of failing to manage workplace stress is high. So, what can managers do to increase resilience and best support their team members? And how does increasing the focus on employees’ mental health benefit both individuals and organisations?

Why is stress management important?

Stress is a typical psychological and physical response to life’s circumstances and demands. As such, is not necessarily a bad thing. Stress has an adaptive function as it prepares us to respond to a specific, possibly dangerous, situations.

When faced with threat, a surge of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenalie are released ready for a “fight, flight, or freeze” response. Adrenaline increased your heart rate, and elevates your blood pressure and energy levels, among other things. Meanwhile, cortisol increases sugars in the blood, alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes.

But when stressors are always present and you constantly feel under attack, that fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on.  Therefore, ongoing stress at work can weaken your ability to cope, becoming detrimental to your mental and physical health and to your general sense of well-being.

According to the Labour Force Survey, employee workload accounts for 44% of workplace stress, followed by lack of support (14%) and violence, threats or bullying (12%).

79% of workers experience work-related stress. In 2018, it was 59%

In 2020, 79% of workers commonly experience work-related stress; this is 20% higher than 2018’s findings. Almost half of those polled believe they need help to learn how to manage stress.

Effective stress management helps reduce stress, enhances resilience and allows you to keep going under pressure and recover from adversity. It enables you to live a more balanced life and be happier, healthier, and more productive.

Manage workplace stress – your role as Manager

The importance of managers in assisting employees under pressure cannot be overstated. An awareness of stress manangement is essential.

As manager, you can play an essential role in reducing work-related stress in your organisation. A proactive approach that includes a stress policy, stress risk assessment, and action plans can help prevent workplace stress and promote well-being.

A successful manager is aware of potentially stressful situations in the office and takes the initiative to control or eliminate them.

Here are some strategies managers can use to help themselves and their team members manage stress at the office.

Nurture Positive Communication

Positive communication at work is critical. A company’s production, efficiency, and morale are all dependent on constructive communication among employees, between employees and management, and within management structures. In addition, open communication improves team members’ performance by making them feel accountable for their results.

To create a positive work environment, connect with your team members, talk openly with your employees, and set clear rules and expectations.  Good communication fosters a workplace culture of cooperation, trust, and solidarity. When team members understand their roles and responsibilities, they are more likely to be motivated to work toward the same values and goals.

Give Praise

Research shows getting praise or recognition vastly increases morale and productivity by 10% – 20%. Unfortunately, most managers don’t give effective praise, nor nearly enough of it. A Gallup survey found 2/3 employees received no praise in a given week.  We can all be better at this overlooked but critical skill.

Set Clear Goals for Your Team

To reduce workplace stress, assist your team members in setting realistic and specific goals with clear and attainable outcomes that the team hopes to achieve.

Encourage Mindfulness at Work

Mindfulness at work is an idea that has been around for a while.
Mindfulness is a type of meditation where you focus your attention on the present moment without any judgment or interpretation. The technique has roots in Buddhism and meditation, but you don’t have to be spiritual, or have any particular beliefs, to try it.

There is scientific proof that mindfulness can improve mental health by boosting mood, reducing stress and anxiety, increasing focus and memory, and many other things.

Improve Yourself

A proactive mindset involves a readiness to work on yourself constantly. To help you to manage workplace stress, take a stress management course for managers to boost your own resilience and to learn effective ways to create a mental good health culture at work.

Even in the most uncertain times, the role of the manager remains the same: to support your team members and this includes supporting their mental health. As more and more employees struggle with stress, burnout, and mental health concerns, regular training is the best way to stay focused on mental health, increase awareness, build a healthy community, and offer peer support.

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