Workplace stress putting you on edge?

Is Workplace Stress Putting You on Edge? Photo via Elmira Strange, Flickr


Every workplace gets stressed from time to time, whether due to tight deadlines, unexpected hurdles, or tight staffing. But how can you tell if workplace stress is to the point where it affects people’s health and productivity?

April is National Stress Awareness Month  and the perfect time to identify the stress level and health of your workplace.

Assessing Your Workplace Stress Level

The Better Health Channel lists symptoms of work-related stress including depression, anxiety, drop in work performance, fatigue, headaches, feelings of being overwhelmed and an increase in sick days or absenteeism.

“Companies and employers should recognize workplace stress as a significant health and safety issue,” it says.

According to Cornerstone OnDemand article, “Point Break: The Challenge of Training Staff to Deal with Stress,” the best stress management trick means determining when employees’ workloads go from challenging to unmanageable.

Recognize Stress Early

The article quotes Hannah Kirk, a training consultant at Hemsley Fraser, who says employers often don’t recognize this “stress tipping point” until it’s too late. Sometimes employees don’t even notice their own stress levels rising.

“Many people sleepwalk into it. They start to work longer hours. Then those hours creep into evenings and weekends. Soon these additional work hours have a detrimental effect on a person’s work-life balance. It’s important to recognize your own personal tipping point so you can manage stress at the early stages.”

Stephen Pierce, chief HR officer at Hitachi Europe notes that increasingly diverse, complex employee roles make it harder to spot when workers are stressed. Globalization and technology have increased the pace of today’s workplaces, and constantly-shifting employee roles inherently adds stress. Pierce says:

“Change … moves us outside our comfort zones and it is important to help staff cope with this so that they can maintain their performance and contribute to their business.”

Not surprisingly, the earlier you identify workplace stress, the easier it is to alleviate the situation.

Hold Regular Meetings

A Green Umbrella article, “Stress In the Workplace? How Well Do You know Your Staff?” advocates maintaining open communication and holding regular meetings where employees have an opportunity to raise issues, ask questions, and share information. This gives you an opportunity to tell whether workers are stressed. It may be tempting to skip meetings during hectic times, but that’s especially when staying in contact with team members is important. A quick check-in meeting with your department or project teams can uncover issues that might otherwise contribute to extra stress.

One-On-One Time

It’s also a good idea for managers to check in with workers individually. You’re more likely to catch stressful situations early, and your employees will appreciate your support. Just knowing they’re cared for can decrease stress, and engaging employees in this way makes them feel valued. 

Involve HR

Your HR team is a great asset in assessing stressful situations and identify ways to address them. Perhaps a conflict between teams with overlapping responsibilities or gaps in accountability cause stress, or a situation at an employee’s home that’s causing impaired productivity or excessive absenteeism.

HR staffers can advise management and/or counsel stressed workers. They bring fresh eyes to the situation along with a knowledge of employment law and its workplace application—this is critical when dealing with stress-induced performance issues.

Between management and HR, watch for signs of stress in individuals and teams. If you work to resolve workplace stress as it arises, you will minimize productivity loss and have a healthier, more engaged workforce.

For thought-leader tips and insights into building a vibrant culture of open communication and engagement, be sure to download our free e-book, “The Top 20 Employee Engagement Blogs You Should be Reading”.
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