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  • Small Business Briefcase: Making Peace

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    Stress affects everyone, and it affects your business’ productivity and profits. Understanding how to manage it and lessen it for your team is a key piece of every boss’ job.
    At some point, all human beings experience stress. Supervisors and employees alike are all under both personal and professional stress. Recognizing this fact is the first step in striving to create a less stressful environment and helping your employees find peace at work. The next is learning how to spot the signs of stress in your team.

    Lower performance and productivity, decreased motivation, increased irritability and coworker arguments, toxic attitudes, lack of punctuality and missed deadlines, increased absenteeism, poor teamwork or reluctance to participate in team activities, and difficulty concentrating or making decisions are all indicators of high employee stress.

    If you see evidence of stress, it’s time it identify the root. A lot of workplace stress stems directly from poor executive leadership. When they lack positive influences, opportunities for growth and job security and don’t have clear understandings of how their contributions play into to the company’s success, and don’t fully grasp the company’s vision and goals employees are likely to experience work-related stress.

    This missing leadership issue is only exacerbated by the next source of stress: Poor communication between employees and their immediate supervisor. When employees don’t receive performance feedback, don’t sense a positive team atmosphere and aren’t engaged in a collaborative environment social instability ensues and adds to their stress. Regardless of the type of work they do, almost all employees need social support and need to feel they are part of a team and that they enjoy mutual respect with superiors and colleagues. To make matters worse, many supervisors have not been trained to supervise remote workers.

    Unhealthy workloads characterized by unreasonable hours, too few breaks and rigid schedules push stress levels higher. This is particularly prevalent when positions are not filled due to lack of qualified applicants, labor shortage, or due to financial restraints and existing workers are expected to fill the gaps.

    When employees don’t have the tools and resources they need to complete what is expected of them, the stress builds even more. This includes insufficient training, inadequate office supplies, equipment and technology, sudden changes in work policies that are not explained and unpleasant and/or unsafe surroundings. And sometimes, the stress originates outside the office.

    Less-stressed employees are happier in their jobs, and this leads to more productive environments and higher performance levels.
    In all instances, employers can play a powerful and positive part in reducing employee stress. Here are a few key points to remember:
    • Executives need to be real leaders who exert positive influence.
    • Executives need to share with employees the vision for the organization and outline clear expectations as to how each employee contributes to the vision.
    • Executives and supervisors need to care about employees individually, not only as a group.
    • Executives and supervisors need to listen to employees if they are having personal issues and point them in a healthy direction.
    • Communicate specific roles, responsibilities and outcomes expected of each employee.
    • Have relationships with each employee through weekly check-ins or meetings.
    • Communicate frequently regarding performance, whether positive comments or constructive discussions.
    • Monitor fair and equitable workloads of employees when there are vacant positions whose duties are distributed to other employees.
    • Monitor employee workloads, shifts and hours.
    • Ensure that employees are taking time off.
    • Be flexible with employees and work hours and even offer remote work when needed.
    • Incorporate social times with employees.
    • Listen to employees for positive suggestions on work processes or work products.
    • Ensure employees have everything they need to accomplish their work.
    • Know the process for employees to enroll in employee assistance programs offered by their organization.
    Laura Chambliss is the Marketing Development Manager for Continuing Education and Outreach at Troy University.
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    Montgomery, Alabama 36101
    Tel: 334.834.5200   Fax: 334.265.4745

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