How to Manage Stressed Employees in the Workplace

Some team stress at work is to be expected. Plus, people do bring their personal stresses to work with them. But, a prolonged high level of job-induced stress is a problem that leaders need to address. Such stress is harmful to employees’ health and to business performance. This is why the best leaders include learning how to manage team stress in their leadership training

The human body copes well enough with acute stress, which is the kind of temporary stress that comes with a major event, or with a high-stakes or complicated project. However, as Mayo Clinic stress experts explain in their Stress symptoms: Effects on Your Body and Behavior, we do not have the same success in resisting the negative effects of chronic stress, which is long- term experience of high stress that comes with working in a continuously stressful working environment.

Employee stress is an unfortunate reality in many workplaces. Long hours tight deadlines, and demanding projects can create high-pressure environments. While some stress can motivate employees excessive or prolonged stress takes a real toll. Stressed employees tend to be less engaged, productive and happy at work. As a manager, it’s important to recognize the signs of a stressed workforce and take proactive steps to create a healthier, more supportive work culture.

Here are some effective ways to manage stressed employees

Encourage Open Communication

Make sure employees feel comfortable coming to you if their workload becomes overwhelming. Don’t penalize people for speaking up about stress. Create an environment where people know you’ll listen without judgment. Frequent check-ins can help you gauge stress levels and adjust workloads proactively, before burnout sets in.

Offer Mental and Physical Health Benefits

Provide quality health insurance that gives employees access to mental health services like counseling or therapy. Consider adding supplemental benefits like on-site massages, gym discounts, or free meditation/yoga classes. Investing in well-being pays off through higher engagement, focus and performance.

Bring in Meditation Classes

Offer short meditation or mindfulness seminars to teach employees techniques to reduce stress in the moment. Build in time for structured breathing exercises during meetings. Meditation spaces give people an on-site oasis to recharge throughout the day. Even 5-10 minutes of quiet reflection can refresh overloaded minds.

Offer Paid Time Off

Provide ample paid vacation time, sick days and personal leave. Encourage employees to actually use their time off, rather than skip vacations out of dedication. Make sure workloads and deadlines accommodate people taking time away from work. Time off provides a necessary mental reset.

Encourage Employees to Take Breaks

Combat fatigue by ensuring employees take regular breaks to stand up, stretch, chat with colleagues, grab a snack or go outside for fresh air. Discourage an “always on” attitude where people feel guilty for short non-work breaks. Breaks enhance productivity by giving the mind a rest.

Take the Team Out on Company Offsites

Get people out of the office for morale-boosting activities or offsites. Treat the team to experiences like:

  • Adventure outings
  • Trips to museums/shows
  • Culinary classes
  • Spa days
  • Volunteer events

These shared experiences break up routine, foster connections between colleagues, and let people relax and have fun together.

Bring Some Diversions into the Office

Introduce stress-relieving activities into the work environment like:

  • Relaxation zones for naps or music
  • Creative outlets like art supplies or musical instruments
  • Fun games on breaks like darts, ping pong or video games
  • Office pets employees can play with
  • Massage therapists for office chair massages

Diversions give the brain a welcome distraction from work demands.

Consider Flexible Work Schedules

Provide options like flex time, condensed schedules or remote work. Flexibility empowers people to manage stress by adjusting work to fit their lives and natural rhythms. Avoid rigid 8-5 schedules that squeeze everyone’s lives into the same mold.

Set Reasonable Deadlines

Make sure deadlines are realistic, not arbitrarily tight. Factor in contingencies so teams aren’t always up against impossible timelines. Reasonable deadlines and workloads prevent burnout.

Lead by Example on Work-Life Balance

Don’t expect employees to take a break if you never do. Leave work on time, limit emails on nights/weekends, use your own vacation time, and don’t reward overwork. Your example gives permission for people to create healthy boundaries.

Train Managers on Mental Health

Educate managers on recognizing signs of stress and mental health issues in team members. Equip them to sensitively broach concerns and connect people to resources. Quality management training makes a huge difference.

Conduct Stay Interviews

These “pulse checks” with employees give insight into what’s causing stress, frustration and disengagement. The findings allow you to address issues proactively, before people quit. Employees appreciate you checking in on their experience.

Support Vulnerable Employees

Recognize when certain teams or individuals are shouldering unsustainable workloads. New parents returning from leave, caregivers, newer hires still learning the ropes and remote employees may need extra support. Reach out proactively to see if they need any adjustments.

Foster Teamwork and Morale

Build a collaborative culture so no one feels like they’re facing overwhelming pressure alone. Promote teamwork and peer support. Boost morale with team-building activities, social events, praise and incentive programs. People are more resilient when part of a cohesive team.

Offer Stress Management Training

Bring in experts to teach employees stress management techniques like prioritizing, time management, communication tactics, getting organized, asking for help, and maintaining work-life balance. Giving people tools to minimize stress is invaluable.

Provide Quiet Spaces

Open meeting rooms, empty offices or lounges as quiet spaces available for anyone needing peace, silence and privacy during the workday. Quiet areas let overloaded minds recharge.

Limit Meetings and Email

Excess meetings and email overload contribute to workplace stress. Eliminate unnecessary meetings, keep existing ones structured and focused, limit attendees and reduce company-wide emails. Every distraction prevented helps employees stay in flow.

Have Realistic Expectations

Acknowledge that people have lives outside of work. Avoid perpetuating a culture where employees are made to feel like they must be available 24/7 and sacrifice everything for their jobs. Clear boundaries and human expectations relieve pressure.

Listen to Employees’ Needs

Regularly survey employees to gauge workload, time pressures, stress levels and work-life balance. Invite anonymous input on where employees are struggling. Then actually implement suggested improvements!

The costs of ignoring employee stress are huge – burnout, health issues, lower performance, turnover and disengagement. But when companies make employee well-being a priority through supportive policies, practices and culture, they gain loyal, focused and energized teams that drive business success.

how to manage stressed employees

1 Allow Flexibility in Working Hours and Locations.

Insisting that all employees obey a rigid M-F 8:00-to-4:30 schedule is counterproductive. Some people are at their peak efficiency during earlier morning hours, whereas other people are happiest working in the relative quiet after normal business hours. Allowing people the freedom to choose their work hours is a supreme stress management strategy.

If appropriate for your operational model, allow people to maintain flexible work schedules. Gauge of the value of their decisions on their work hours and locations by their levels of productivity and quality of output:

  • As long as work is consistently being completed in keeping with timelines and quality standards, it’s more relevant to keep people happy setting their own hours than just to see them occupying their desks during arbitrarily established hours.
  • Also, let people work from home, if it doesn’t negatively impact their performance. But, ensure that they don’t become psychologically disconnected from the team. Have them attend meetings and other team functions routinely.

Encourage Everyone to Get Sufficient Sleep.

An alarming 37% of the workforce reportedly do not get sufficient sleep. Sleep problems and stress can combine to generate a vicious cycle of inability to sleep due to stress, followed by increased stress effects due to lack of sleep. Stress hormones can trigger release of hormones that act on the body as stimulants, leading to sleep disruptions. Sleep deprivation can lead to:

  • Poor concentration
  • Irritability, anger
  • Reduced motivation
  • Impacted decision-making ability
  • Reduced cognitive ability
  • Decreased physical coordination
  • Reduced productivity
  • Increased errors
  • Increased risk of workplace injuries
  • Impacts to professional and personal relationships

Workplace Mental Health – all you need to know (for now) | Tom Oxley | TEDxNorwichED

How can managers help employees handle stress?

Experts offered other ways managers can help employees handle stress: Encourage your team to take advantage of stress-management webinars, wellness tips or programs, and yoga or meditation classes. Set an example by using these resources yourself. Make sure workers are taking regular breaks, and be sure to take them yourself.

How to avoid stress?

Stress is an inevitable part of life, but there are steps you can take to minimize its impact and reduce its frequency. Here are some tips for avoiding stress: Practice good time management: Plan your day and prioritize your tasks, focusing on the most important and urgent ones first. This can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and reduce the risk of procrastination. Stay active: Regular physical activity can help reduce stress levels by releasing endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Exercise can also help you sleep better and improve your overall health. Practice relaxation techniques: Deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can all help calm your mind and reduce stress levels. Incorporating these practices into your daily routine can help you stay calm and centered. Maintain social connections: Spending time with loved ones and engaging in activities you enjoy can help reduce stress levels and improve your mood. Avoid unhealthy habits: Excessive alcohol or caffeine consumption, smoking, and overeating can all increase stress levels and have negative impacts on your health. Seek professional help: If you are experiencing chronic stress or are unable to manage your stress on your own, consider seeking help from a mental health professional. By implementing these strategies, you can effectively manage your stress levels and enjoy a happier, healthier life.

How do you manage stress at work?

Instead, focus on managing work-related stress. Provide tools, platforms and software that alleviate simple, mundane tasks. Then, use the time saved to encourage employees to take stress-free PTO or even invest in their upward growth. It will pay back in dividends. – Chaz Perera, Roots Automation 5. Identify Signs Of High Stress Levels

How do you deal with stress in a company?

Build a culture where it’s okay to talk about your stress and you can ask for help from a supportive team that looks out for one another. Respect people’s time off and ensure that everyone has time off marked on their calendar. Ensure the focus is on deliverables and the team has flexibility.

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