We’ve all heard office horror stories.
Whether they involve long, grueling hours, gossipy deskmates, or even tyrannical bosses who alphabetize their pen collections, it almost seems natural at this point for the workplace to be a stressful environment.
In fact, a poll conducted by Harris Interactive found that an alarming 80% of employees were stressed at their jobs.
The top five reasons were:
- Low pay (13%)
- Long commutes (13%)
- Unreasonable workload (12%)
- Annoying coworkers (10%)
- Poor work-life balance (8%)
Gallup’s research indicates that well-being is closely tied to employee engagement. So too much stress can make workers disengaged — and possibly send them running for the hills. Neither outcome is beneficial for managers looking to run an effective team, so what can be done?
Leaders to the Rescue
Luckily, there’s a solution right in front of us. A recent Virgin Pulse survey found the following about employees:
- 44% say their relationship with their employers lowers their stress levels
- 60% say their relationship with their employers helps them focus and stay more productive
These findings show that supportive leadership can have a lot of sway when it comes to building a healthy workplace for their workers.
Let’s look at ways to address the top five issues mentioned in the Harris Interactive poll.
1. Low Pay
Salary can be a tricky subject, and of course what an employee considers “low” can be different from the employer’s perspective. But keep in mind that underpaying employees will be more expensive in the long run due to the costs of turnover.
Consider the context too: a solid benefits package or stock options can make a moderate salary much more attractive. Also, employees can feel more anxious about pay if they’re uncertain about how to earn raises and bonuses (or are uncertain they’re available at all). A little communication can go a long way here. Misinformation or lack of clarity can result in unnecessary stress.
2. Long Commutes
You can’t control where your employees live, of course, but you can help ease the burden of commuting. If possible, give your workers the option of a work-from-home day once a week or more, depending on what’s feasible. Showing this type of flexibility in your approach to management demonstrates that you trust your employees — plus it gives them the added bonus of taking it a relaxing start to the day.
And make sure your commuters have what they need. Consider subsidizing parking or bus passes. See if you can get a group discount for nearby parking lots. Make sure there’s space for bicyclists to safely store their bikes. If you’re far away from the nearest public transit option, see if you can set up a shuttle system to get employees to and from the station.
3. Unreasonable Workload
All businesses see an ebb and flow in workload, and you can’t avoid increasing the demand on your employees. But see how you can make the load easier even if you can’t lighten it: Analyze how work is divvied up and make sure it’s distributed as evenly as possible. Check with employees to see if there are ways to make processes more efficient, or if there are tools that can help them do their work more easily. You’ll go a long way towards fostering a team mentality of “we can do this!” rather than “I quit.”
If overloading persists, it might be time to expand the team. Hiring more personnel takes up more resources, but it can make the difference in whether or not your employees can produce quality work that they’re proud of and that contributes to your company performance.
Also, make sure to work on maintaining your own engagement — an anxious manager will make employees feel more overwhelmed.
4. Annoying Coworkers
If you know people don’t get along, look for solutions. That may involve a sit-down discussion between the two, but in some cases, simply making sure those people don’t sit next to each other can go a long way. If issues persist, rearranging teams might be in order.
For a long-term solution, evaluate job candidates to make sure they’ll fit with the team and culture. It’s much easier to weed out someone who isn’t a culture fit during the recruitment process.
5. Poor Work-Life Balance
In an ideal world, no one would be overburdened with responsibilities. However, budgets for staffing aren’t limitless, and sometimes work-life imbalance can seem unavoidable. If that’s the case, make sure to be as reasonable as possible with accommodations. Let your employees know you have their best interests at heart. Support them in using PTO for family issues and other personal matters as needed, so they don’t waste time and energy worrying about these things while they’re at work. Remember that giving someone an extra day or even half-day off is a great way to reward hardworking employees.
On a day-to-day basis, use telecommuting or flexible scheduling to make it easier for employees to fit work into their lives. This might mean an investment in technology to support remote workers, but it will pay off. According to a survey by ConnectSolutions, 77% of remote workers report greater productivity when working off site.
Talk to your team. Take notice of people who’ve been on edge, and take note of complaints if they’re brought to you. Provide avenues for feedback, both in person and anonymous, so you can stay in touch with how your employees are doing.
In many cases, the simple act of trying to find a solution can be as beneficial to morale as actually finding one. Many times your team just wants to see that you’re invested in their well-being.
Keeping employees engaged is a delicate balance of finding them the right kinds of work, the right amounts of work, and ensuring they feel taken care of as contributors to your business. While it may not be possible to fix all issues for all employees, by addressing problems that are common amongst them, you’ll be lowering stress levels all around, keeping your workforce engaged and helping ensure they find success.
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