Five ways to reduce your stress and that of your workers
As the World Health Organisation is to add a more detailed definition of ‘burnout’ at work to its classification of diseases, author Samuel Leach outlines five ways business leaders can provide a supportive and positive work environment for themselves and their workers
The World Health Organisation recently announced plans to add a more detailed definition of the concept of ‘burnout’ at work to its classification of diseases, expanding it to include exhaustion, mental distance, negativity and cynicism, and reduced professional efficiency. This emphasises the widespread negative effects of stress at work on employees, as well as pointing to the impact stress can have on businesses’ bottom lines. Indeed, research has found stress-related absences from work costs the UK economy an average of £6.5bn per year. Work-related stress can be experienced by all, but there are ways that business leaders can provide a supportive and positive environment at work for both themselves and their workers.
1. Set an example
It is crucial that, as a successful business leader, you are able to deal with your employees’ problems without being influenced by your own. Consequently, if you are suffering from feelings of stress, it is important to prevent these from detracting from your own performance in the workplace.
Occasionally, stress is an inevitable part of working life, but regular or intense experiences of burnout can have a negative effect on your health and on the performance of your employees. If you are able to identify the cause of your work-related problems and implement a solution, as well to compartmentalise your stress and avoid passing it on to your workers, you will be able to mitigate the impacts of your stress on the company.
Acting in a responsible and logical manner to solve your problems will also set an example that employees will be able to follow.
2, Create a positive working environment
An unappealing working environment can negatively affect the mental wellbeing and productivity of your workers — no one will feel creatively inspired in a dark or dingy office interior. Get feedback from your employees on what sorts of features they would most like to see in a workspace, and then try to incorporate features that will improve the space. Your workforce will also feel positive about having had more input into the look and feel of their office environment.
Changes could range from simply rearranging a seating plan to optimise space, to integrating biophilic designs. These involve bringing more greenery inside and are known to improve workers’ wellbeing by creating a more aesthetically pleasing space that has better air quality. Breakout zones can also make space for more natural light and create a more light-hearted, fun environment, helping to improve mood and reduce stress.
3. Empower your workforce
A sense of autonomy can give employees more enjoyment in the work they carry out and the way they contribute to their company. Given each worker will have different ways of doing things, it is vital that business leaders provide employees with the time, space and independence to approach their work with more creative freedom, and to take ownership over areas and projects that work for them. Setting up frequent meetings between teams for workers to review their performances will empower people to make decisions without needing to rely on employers’ preferences and will open a dialogue that permits more leeway for changes when needed, minimising the likelihood of stress in the workplace.
4. Take some chill out time
In a world in which technology has made constant communication possible, the workplace is in danger of engendering a nonstop working culture. If you or your workers find yourselves with a workload that is impinging on your personal time, lengthening your office hours far beyond your contracted time, and causing large amounts of stress, then action is needed.
This may mean increasing your hires so that the burden of work is more evenly shared among more people. Ensuring your workforce take regular breaks can also really help improve productivity by allowing employees to revitalise and refresh themselves. Bringing in regular social events outside of the office can help to boost morale, while implementing initiatives such as wellness days can also ensure your workforce is feeling supported.
5. Regular communication is a must
Frequently talking to your employees one-to-one or in a group setting will help to produce a more relaxed situation in which workers will have the opportunity to communicate any issues and you will be able to tackle them together. Your workforce will feel they are respected and listened to and will also trust you to look out for their wellbeing. Even if the issue isn’t something you can solve, just providing a safe space for them to air a grievance can help to alleviate feelings of stress.
While work worries can’t always be avoided, the key is to ensure you have built an environment in which the risks of such issues are minimised, and one in which, should they arise, problems can easily be tackled. Positioning yourself as an approachable member of the team is crucial, as is making changes to the office layout, processes and culture to foster a space in which every member feels empowered and supported.
Samuel Leach (pictured below) is author of The Formula for Success: How to Win at Life Using Your Own Personal Algorithm published by Wiley
Acting in a responsible and logical manner to solve your problems will also set an example that employees will be able to follow