Reduce Workplace Stress by Opening Lines of Communication

February 6th, 2015

Are your employees looking a little worn out? Do they seem a little irritable or stretched to the limit? Are they hesitating before accepting new projects and making weak promises about deadlines and completion dates? January and February can be challenging months in the workplace, since breaks are few and far between, the days are short and dark, and the weather can present serious challenges. If you pile tight deadlines or complex field work on top of this equation, you’ll need to keep a close eye on your employees so they don’t approach the breaking point. If you’re one flu outbreak away from losing your overworked and invaluable team, try this simple, time tested move: listening. Here are few things to keep in mind.

Don’t force employees to drop hints.

Subtlety and indirect remarks don’t usually help an important message get through. But if your workplace culture discourages or punishes employees who get to the point and simply state what they need, then they’ll be left with no other recourse. Keep an eye out for hidden, veiled messages that are couched in polite, vague terms. These mean one thing: “I’m exhausted. And NO, I would rather not stay late this evening…again.” When you hear these messages, tune in.

Keep an open door policy.

Your own door, the doors of your managers, and the doors of your HR team should be kept open (literally and figuratively) barring specific reasons to close them (like private conversations). Make sure your employees feel comfortable walking right up to the door and asking you if you have a minute. The same applies to your (thoughtful and non-judgmental) HR staff.

Make it clear that you’re listening.

If you can’t grant a request or resolve a complaint, at least register that you’ve heard it. You can’t make sure every path is completely cleared and every conflict is resolved, but at the very least, you can demonstrate that you’re trying and that you care. Sometimes employees don’t even need your help as much as you might think; they just want you to know what’s going on and how they feel.

Don’t ignore interpersonal problems.

If an employee complains of bullying, unjust treatment, or an impasse with another worker, don’t just dismiss this and encourage the parties to “work it out.” It takes courage to bring these things to a manager’s attention, and this courage should be respected and addressed. Listen to both sides of the story before you make a decision.

For more on how to keep your door and ears open—and your valuable employees on board—reach out to the experienced staffing team at PSU.

 

Stop Workplace Stress

September 5th, 2014

There’s a simple law of physics at work in all professional workplaces: There are only 24 hours in a day. And for each individual employee, hours and energy can’t be added or taken away from the total. If you ask an employee to work 10, 13, or 23 hours instead of eight, he or she will still need to find the energy and time required by personal responsibilities that have been left unattended.

In other words, if you keep an employee running at top speed all day long, personal activities and the mental space they require will simply be deducted from company time. Deadlines and quotas may be met, but at a cost, and the cost will be paid by you, not just your employees. Eventually, both productivity and work quality will suffer, and your most important assets will become exhausted, sick, disengaged, and—as it happens—untalented. Skilled employees will leave in search of better circumstances, and you’ll be left with only those who have no other options.

If you assume your employees can keep burning their own candles at both ends in order to keep up with your demands, prepare for surprises. As an alternative, consider these six ways to keep stress levels low and productivity high.

1. Remember the Eight Hour rule.

Each day, your employees owe you eight hours of their time. Everything after this limit is voluntary, even if you’re paying for it. So show respect for this time, treat it like a gift, and thank these hard workers appropriately. Don’t take this sacrifice for granted.

2. Their needs are your needs.

Allow and encourage your employees to take breaks. If you keep them from running short errands or using the internet to browse, shop, make dental appointments, and connect with family members, don’t expect them to stay late. And don’t expect them to give their full energy and effort to their projects. If you demand more than you deserve, expect to receive the minimum.

3. Don’t use competition to manipulate.

Encourage friendly competition within the workplace and direct serious competition outward toward your company’s competitors. Never pit employees against each other.

4. Feed them.

Nothing diffuses stress and resentment among employees like free meals. A few catered meals or 20 dollar pizzas a week can save your company thousands in lost work time and turnover.

5. Help them with personal problems.

If employees know that you care about them, they’ll be more willing to take care of you. Even a simple verbal gesture of support can go a long way.

6. Handle criticism with care.

Criticism may bring benefits occasionally, but more often it leads to demotivation, discouragement, resentment, high turnover, unnecessary anxiety, and reduced social cohesion. Use it constructively– or better, avoid it altogether.

For more on how to get the most out of your employees without pushing them too far and losing them altogether, reach out to the staffing professionals at PSU.

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