Stress is an emotion which is all too prevalent in the workplace. A common perception is that these sorts of feelings can serve as an internal motivation tool to strive towards success – however without even realising it, these feelings can quickly become all-consuming.
Once an individual has fallen victim to workplace stress, these feelings can quickly creep into other life areas and cause damage to relationships or ruin a daily routine.
It may not be possible to entirely eliminate the manifestation of stress in the workplace, however, if the right techniques are implemented and enforced, the chances of it growing into a greater problem can be drastically reduced.
Create an inclusive and caring culture
The most important part of alleviating workplace stress is to create a culture that firstly prevents stress from occurring and secondly, if it does occur, is equipped to deal with the situation. If an office environment is established from the get-go that is both inclusive and caring, occurrences of stress will be reduced.
To counter workplace stress, the environment in which both managers and employees work needs to be one that only encourages healthy working patterns. Sometimes when a major project is being completed employees may need to work more in order to account for this, but it is important that after the project has finished employees are not expected to continue working late or extra hours regularly. A culture which continually encourages overtime and late working is one which could cause increased amounts of stress, especially if those who are not incredibly ‘busy’ or working late often are made to feel guilty for these decisions, which could cause these individuals huge amounts of stress. To reduce the chance of workplace stress, ensure everyone has an appropriate workload which they can manage within their contracted working hours, other than rare, special projects.
This inclusive culture can be reinforced by holding team-building activities and days so that everyone in the workplace feels like a valued part of the team. This goes a long way to ensuring employees are comfortable enough to approach someone at work if they feel as if they are struggling. People may have a lack of support in their personal life, so support in the workplace may be transformative for these individuals. Those feeling happy in their working environment are ultimately more productive!
Know the symptoms
For stress to be managed efficiently in the workplace, it is important that both managers and employees are aware of the symptoms to watch out for as they can be very hard to spot. It is crucial that both managers and employees know the symptoms as it can be easier for someone suffering to speak to a colleague rather than a manager, as they may be under the impression that admitting stress to their manager shows they cannot do their job – even though this is not the case.
By creating a friendly and caring atmosphere in the workplace, it becomes much easier to notice those who may be stressed. Changes in personality, such as irritability or a lack of socialising, are indicators that someone may be suffering. Whoever notices these changes in personality could then either approach the individual to see how they are feeling, check if anything is occurring in their personal life, or converse with their manager or the welfare officer if they are concerned. This kind of inclusive culture means no-one suffering will fall under the radar.
Determine the cause
If a person in the workplace is suffering from stress, it is important to try and pinpoint the cause so that steps can be taken to eliminate this. From cases that do arise, determining the cause will mean that this practice can be completely removed so that no-one else will be affected in the future.
It can be very difficult to determine causes as it is common for people suffering to blame themselves, due to the low self-esteem that often accompanies stress. However, it is important that managers and colleagues around them continue to encourage the person that they are not weak or to be blamed for their feelings. Encourage individuals to talk and find out what causes stress so that practices can be put in place to alleviate these, such as a dedicated office relaxation area or the inclusion of biophilic design – plants and nature – to make individuals feel more at ease.
It can be difficult to know what to do for an individual who is feeling overwhelmed. Removing some of their workload is definitely a good place to start, however, this does not always get to the root cause of their stress. It is important to address how employees manage their workload as opposed to just how much they have. Introducing a drop-in time with managers for employees to go along and discuss their work and how they are feeling will ensure anyone who is stressed feels as if they can speak up.
Many individuals assume that being stressed is just part of office life, but this should not be the case. Both management and employees hold important roles in countering workplace stress as both these parties contribute extensively to the office culture. Creating an inclusive, friendly and caring workplace will not only support those who are admitting they are stressed but can also go a long way to preventing cases from ever occurring.
About the Authors
Karen Meager and John McLachlan are the co-founders of Monkey Puzzle Training, two of only a handful of NLP Master Trainers in the UK and co-authors to Time Mastery; a number one best-selling book, and Real Leaders for the Real World; an IBA finalist.
At Monkey Puzzle Training, Karen, John and their team specialise in developing leaders and supporting them in their personal and professional growth. They take the latest scientific and academic thinking and make it accessible and usable in peoples’ work and everyday life.