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Team Development

4 Ways to Lower Your Employee’s Workplace Stress

We all experience workplace stress from time-to-time and that’s completely normal. But for those of us that consistently experience workplace stress, it can cause a lot of problems.

So how can we managers lower the amount of workplace stress for our employees? Well, we have done our research and found the top 4 ways to do just that!

Stress Relaxer #1: Consistent Scheduling

Employees who work inconsistent schedules, experience some of the most extreme workplace-related stress. According to Holmes-Rahe, each time an employee experiences a major working hours shift they are assigned 20 points. Once that employee gets to 300 points for the year, the chance of that employee having a major health breakdown in the next 2 years increases by about 80%.

There are 52 weeks per year and assume your employee gets a week vacation, that means they work about 51 weeks per year. In the typical type of companies where employees experience this type of workplace stress, their schedules change weekly. So 51 * 20 = 1020, this is before we include the changes to their eating habits that we must consider with schedule changes, the stress of that week vacation, and any home stressors. We find that this employee has already experienced enough stress for 3.4 years above 300 points. Do you maybe understand how this type of scheduling is actually really dumb now?

So, basically, you are almost guaranteeing your employees to have health issues by using systems that promise to “increase productivity” and “lower” labor costs.

Please… please, bring your brain to work and rather than letting the computer puke out a schedule, spend some time making that schedule human.

Stress Relaxer #2: Control

We have found that much of the workplace stress people experience actually comes from the lack of control they feel over their job, how it’s done, and when they work. Finding ways to increase their control over their job and how it’s done is one of the quickest ways to lower workplace stress. Try and find opportunities where you can allow your employees to decide how to complete their job, of course, this can’t come at the cost of safety. Can you allow your employees to write their own schedule, or at least give you a schedule preference that you can then plug into that labor “reducing,” efficiency “improving” scheduling software?

Stress Relaxer #3: Vacation/Breaks

Your employees need to, let me rephrase that, have to take breaks from work. Do not allow them to not take breaks or not use their vacation…… No person, no matter how hardy they think they are, can work all the time with no consequences. When your employees refuse vacation time or break time, their productivity decreases, their energy level decreases, their love for their job decreases, their attitude turns negative, and in highly tedious jobs, your employee’s attention to detail decreases by the minute. Ensure your employees have productive breaks by setting them up to win. You can do this by putting adult coloring books (affiliate link) in the break room, ensuring the break room has plenty of natural light or if that isn’t possible, ensure it has nature present, real or fake. Having just a few plants will make your employees feel better and lower their stress.

Stress Relaxer #4: Reduce Loneliness

Wow, shocker, I know, but this one is huge trust me. Lonely employees are well lonely, they know it and everyone knows it. In fact, lonely employees are perceived by their co-workers to be underachievers, regardless of their actual performance. Add this to their already lonely state and 68% of lonely employees say this contributes significantly to their workplace stress. Further, a 2011 Study by Sacramento State and Wharton found a direct correlation between lower performance and workplace loneliness, so maybe their co-workers are right?

One of the top and the most important ways you can combat workplace loneliness is to be ready to talk to those employees as soon as you recognize it. Encourage them to talk, if to no one else than you. Share a story, a moment you were scared to speak up, maybe when you started in your current position. Build camaraderie and make them feel welcome, then encourage your employees to do the same.

Do you have remote employees? Be sure to make them feel like part of the team. Reserve 5 mins at the beginning of a meeting to have them “catch-up” with the team and be sure to surprise them on important dates/events with something special from the team.

 

Additional Resources:

Consistent Scheduling

https://hbr.org/2018/03/research-when-retail-workers-have-stable-schedules-sales-and-productivity-go-up

Control

https://hbr.org/2017/12/how-the-gap-used-an-app-to-give-workers-more-control-over-their-schedules?referral=03758&cm_vc=rr_item_page.top_right

Workplace Loneliness

https://hbr.org/2017/06/burnout-at-work-isnt-just-about-exhaustion-its-also-about-loneliness

Trust

Stop Handcuffing Your Managers

We need to talk… And it is something you are doing, but don’t worry, you’re not alone!

There is a problem in this country. It may stem from a lack of trust, or maybe from our lack of due diligence, but nonetheless, it is a major problem. This problem costs us billions of dollars per year and it’s an easy problem to fix. Left unchecked however it will ruin employee morale and your bottom line. The problem is that YOU are handcuffing your managers!

Each year in the U.S. alone, 82% of the managers chosen for the job either lack the skills necessary or are just a bad fit for the position they are selected for. This is a horrific stat, I know, but it’s true. This has led to many organizations dumbing things down and taking power away from their mid to lower level management, essentially handcuffing them.

Why is Handcuffing Bad for the Manager?

When you handcuff your lower level managers, it immediately lets them know you do not trust them. Distrust leads to lower morale, which leads to crappy performance and disengaged employees which cost up to $500 billion annually in lost productivity. Plus let’s face it, if you don’t trust the manager, why should their team? Lacking trust in your managers creates a systemic problem as teams who don’t trust their manager more than likely don’t trust their CEO.

Handcuffing’s Effects on the Team

Handcuffing your managers leads to poor team performance. When your managers are handcuffed, they can’t effectively deal with poor performers and poor performers pull the whole team down. When poor performers are not effectively dealt with, it lowers team morale, increases your turnover and contributes to the $500 billion in lost productivity from above.

How You Can Help

The number one thing you can do is trust your managers! When you trust your managers their team trusts them and compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report: 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, and 40% less burnout.

 

So, yes you may have chosen the wrong candidate for the job and yes some of your managers may make poor decisions, but handcuffing only exacerbates the situation. Instead, you need to provide them with the tools and training they need to become a manager you can truly trust. Simply handcuffing them will cost your company money, morale, great employees, and lost productivity. Stop handcuffing your managers!

If this something your manager really needs to read? Send it to them anonymously!

Self-Development

The First Roadblock in Mentoring is You

It seems like the hardest part of doing anything is starting. As humans, we have several biological processes that were originally designed to help keep us safe but tend to get in the way now that we live in civilized societies. We fear the unknown and we fear it because it is unknown, our brains are unable to make a decision on whether what we are doing will harm us, so biology takes over (in an attempt to do what it thinks will keep us safe) and we avoid it all together.

As you begin your mentoring journey, these biological process will be evident and may take total control. Some thoughts you may have are will the mentee like me, will this work, will I look like a fool, and inevitably you will experience the Imposter Syndrome. One thing to remember is that this is all normal! You should and will experience these emotions and expecting these emotions is the first step to getting over them. I’m willing to bet you may already be experiencing some of these emotions, so let talk about them.

Will my Mentee Like Me?

The first thing you as the Mentor need to understand is that you are not here to be the mentee’s friend. You are here to make a considerable, positive, difference in their life and sometimes that takes a little tough love. You need to set this expectation upfront and let your mentee know where the boundaries are.  Once your mentee starts to see the change and how it is positively affecting them, they will no doubt have a favorable opinion of you.

Let’s think about it this way: When you were a child, I’m sure there were many times where you hated your parents, to only find out later in life they were right. We all hate to admit it, but it happened, and it will happen with your mentee as well.

Will this Work?

The only way it will is if you as the mentor believe it will! You will not be able to make the positive change your mentee needs if you don’t believe in it yourself. To believe in the process you need to ensure the following are true:

  1. Your mentee is a good fit for you and vice versa
  2. You are prepared at each scheduled meeting
  3. You are prepared and able to have some unscheduled mentor time as needed by your mentee
  4. You set your expectations and the mentee’s expectations the first time you meet
  5. You mentor a person who is ready to grow and has the potential to grow
  6. You take the necessary time to grow as a mentor and do whatever it takes to ensure you are giving your mentee proper advice. (This means you may need to take a few online classes and/or do some research from time to time)

Will I Look Like a Fool?

You bet you will! There will be times where it just happens and you can’t avoid it. Just like in everyday life, not everything goes as planned, not everything in your mentorship will go as planned. You need to prepare for the unexpected and have the flexibility to continue on when it happens, and one of the best ways to have that flexibility is to expect the unexpected!

The Imposter Syndrome

We ALL experience this from time to time in life and it is normal. The Imposter Syndrome is described as “phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.” It is all in your head! There is no such thing as a perfect mentor, so you can’t be an imposter. This Fast Company article has great information about the different types of the Imposter Syndrome and how to overcome them, but my advice is to remember that there will always be room for you to learn more. You will never know everything about whatever you are mentoring your mentee about and from time to time you may have to say “I’m not sure” and do some research to find an answer. Guess what, so does everyone else from Guru’s to Experts to CEOs! You just need to do the best you can and when you don’t know the answer, you need to go find it like everyone else. No one is ever born a certain way, they are who they are because they took the time to make themselves who they are and if they can do it so can you!

Check out this short quiz to gauge your level of Imposter Syndrome (The quiz is not a scientific analysis, but can give you a general idea).

Let’s Recap

The first roadblock in the mentoring process is you. To overcome this roadblock, you need to ensure you set expectations of your relationship in the beginning, ensure you take the necessary steps to make the mentorship work, and ensure you keep the imposter syndrome at bay. There will be biological processes that try to take over, you need to be expecting them and ready to defeat them!

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Are you ready to take your mentoring to the next level? Check out the Harvard Business Review’s Coaching and Mentoring: How to Develop Top Talent and Achieve Stronger Performance