Help Employees Reduce Stress

Tuesday, April 1, 2008
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WFC Resources, a Minnesota work/life information and consulting firm, offers these seven tips about actions that will give line managers a little power as they try to alleviate stress in their own workplace.  
1. Support work/life needs.

Our employees have personal responsibilities that will tap their resilience reserves if they're unable to handle them: issues with childcare or parenting, eldercare, financial or legal difficulties, relationships, illness or other significant life events.  
A 2005 study by the Society for Human Resource Management found women and workers younger than 35 saying that work/life balance is the most important component to their overall job satisfaction. If we want our staff to be resilient, we must let them know that their work/life balance is important to us as well.  
2. Point your employees in the direction of resources that can help them with personal issues.

A survey by Watson Wyatt Worldwide found four of five employees in the U.K. saying work/life balance considerations played a crucial role in deciding whether or not to stay with their current employers. Most employees who were dissatisfied chose not to say anything, but simply to leave.

Be as understanding and supportive as you can when your workers have major home life issues. Consider whether flexible-work arrangements may be a solution, even on a temporary basis.  
3. Review and redesign the work.

Work overload, repetitive or redundant processes and low-value work all impact an employee's ability to be satisfied and resilient. Work redesign is a great way to enhance job satisfaction and fit, as well as performance.

Examine the number, variety and nature of the tasks each worker does.

Look to see if it's possible to reduce or eliminate duplicative work. Identify those tasks that are appropriate for remote or flexible work, and create new opportunities for those who want to work a flexible schedule.

Let your team experiment with new ways of working, including the use of flexible-work arrangements, while meeting business needs.  
4. Make sure roles are clear.

Try reallocating certain tasks within the team according to competence and enjoyment level. Check with your team to make sure timetables are realistic. Assess any further training that may be needed to help employees feel confident and competent about their workload (time management training is often helpful).

Ask your team for their suggestions about both processes and outcomes, and follow up on the results to check progress.  
5. Encourage career development.

The lack of career opportunities, guidance and support are major sources of pressure for employees and lead to lower levels of satisfaction and more stress. Your staff needs to know you support them in their growth and that the organization is taking concrete steps to develop their career potential.

Keep "re-recruiting" your staff. Make sure they're being challenged, exposed to opportunities to maximize their skills and helped to develop in their jobs. Help them to feel their work makes a difference.  
6. Reward and appreciate staff.

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Management professor Peter Drucker advised employers to be clear about the results the company wants and when it finds someone producing those results, ask them to share what it is they do that works. Companies should encourage others to do the same and recognize and reward the desirable behavior.

If people aren't rewarded for the progress they make, say other experts, like a rubber band they'll go back to what they were doing before. There's no end to the list of ways to recognize and honor employees, from a thank-you note for a job well done to a sandwich named after them in the company cafeteria. Be creative.  
7. Optimize the manager-employee relationship.

Don't be a bully. A 2000 study by the Australian Council of Trade Unions found the single most common source of workplace stress is bullying, bossy and intimidating behavior from employers.

Australian doctors said they were seeing a growing number of patients claiming to be victims of workplace bullies, and one of four workers said they had taken a day off because of stress in the past 12 months.

Some behaviors that might be interpreted as bullying: Too much criticism, too much anger, too much close scrutiny (micro-managing) and forcing employees to come to work when sick.

For more about helping employees be more satisfied, focused and productive, check out the WFC Resources Web site.

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