You are stressed? Your employees too! Find out how to help them

Service Business

Stress is a scourge of the modern world - it can lead to many problems with both mental and physical health. Therefore, it is important to take measures to exclude or reduce its impact in all areas of life. One of the basic types of stress that plagues modern people is work stress. The necessity to do everything "yesterday", sitting after hours, rivalry, striving "over the dead" for promotion - all this means that, often without realizing it, we are exhausted, tense, discouraged, we start to feel all kinds of physical ailments.

Employers are often unaware of how much they can change about the stress their employees feel. Sometimes it is enough to make small modifications in the management system or in the room where subordinates are located, which lead to an unexpectedly positive change in their behavior and functioning. How can an entrepreneur minimize the stress felt by employees?

Observe, ask, monitor ...

The most important step towards improving working conditions in any company is for the employer to acknowledge that his subordinates may experience work-related stress.

Such awareness is crucial for taking any actions in this area, which are, after all, the obligations of the employer. It is true that there is no obligation to reduce stress felt by employees under the provisions of the labor law. However, there is a provision to protect the life and health (including mental health) of employees by providing them with safe and hygienic physical and psychosocial working conditions.

How can an employer find out if their employees are under stress? First of all, through a conversation - with the employee himself and his immediate supervisor.Important information on this subject will also be provided by the observation - what results does a given employee achieve over several months, does he often go to redundancies, what has recently changed in the organization, how does the person who was promoted to a managerial position behave? These are just a few potential sources that may alert an employer and indicate that their employees are under undue stress.

There are also many proven psychological methods for measuring stress, or in other words, psychosocial workload. If the employer finds something disturbing, he can always turn to an external company or order the internal HR department to stress audit in the organization.

First of all - the location of sources of stress

Both external audit and internal activities of the employer or HR department can help to check whether employees feel negative work-related stress. The next, more important step before deciding what action to take is to assess the sources of stress at work. There can be many causes of psychophysical discomfort in the company. A very common division of such stressors, also used by the National Labor Inspectorate, is the division into:

  • quantitative work overload - work in a hurry, high pace of work imposed by machines, unexpected assignment of tasks, many duties and lack of time,

  • qualitative work overload - long-term concentration, vigilance, performing many mental tasks, the need to make responsible decisions, performing tasks that go beyond the competences,

  • qualitative underload with work - performing simple, monotonous activities, working below the capacity,

  • limited scope of control over work - inflexible working hours, no possibility to decide how to perform a given task, no information on the results of work,

  • unclear professional role - insufficient knowledge about the duties, activities of the company,

  • conflict of professional role - contradictory and changing requirements of superiors, customer dissatisfaction, the need to be constantly available,

  • lack of support from colleagues and / or superiors - promoting competition, lack of information about the company's plans, ignorance of current tasks, discrimination,

  • physical working conditions - noise, poorly equipped workplace, too many people in one room, old equipment.

As you can see, stress can be caused by a wide variety of factors - both from being overburdened with too few responsibilities, being overloaded with responsibility, and not being under control and influencing the workflow. Each employer should learn about the sources of stress of employees located in the company, check if there is any general cause of tension (person, way of organizing the room, procedure) that is universal for a larger number of subordinates. Such action will allow for subsequent appropriate planning of activities in order to remove or reduce the impact of a given stressor on employees.

It is extremely important, because you have to react differently if the subordinates' stress results from poor organization of workplaces, differently if the cause is an incompetent manager, and differently, when the fear of employees is related to the upcoming merger. Knowing the source of tensions will allow you to hit the right place, i.e. correct those aspects of work that directly affect the psychophysical state of employees.

Of course, the stress felt by each subordinate cannot be reduced to zero. There are people who, even in very favorable and safe conditions, will find a reason for stress, or those whose current life situation does not allow them to function peacefully.

Prevention first and foremost

It is good if the main sources of occupational stress in the company can be located and eliminated. It can be a long and exhausting struggle at times, but the benefits it can bring outweigh the costs. Without stress, employees are more productive, more willing to perform their duties, and show greater creativity.

For the sake of the above-mentioned benefits every employer should remember about a few rules which - in accordance with the principle of "prevention better than cure" - will allow stress to be surprised before it surprises us.

The golden rules for counteracting stress

1. Communication first of all - good communication both between employees at the same level and between individual positions in the hierarchy is extremely important. It may be a good idea to organize weekly meetings to deal with emerging problems on an ongoing basis, possibly helping to avoid their negative consequences. The so-called feedback. Every employee has the right to know how he / she coped with a given task, how he was assessed, what he did wrong, what he did well. Firstly, such information shows that the management cares about its subordinates, and secondly - it gives a chance to correct possible mistakes and reduce behavior.

2. Equal treatment of employees - each employee, in accordance with the labor law, has the right to equal remuneration for performing the same work - there may be a situation where one employee employed in the same position as another will earn less for the same duties. Moreover, all employees should have equal opportunities for promotion, choosing a suitable vacation date, etc.

3. The right man in the right place - this principle is important already at the stage of recruiting employees. Each employer should very precisely indicate who he is looking for, what competences should be characterized by the person employed in a given position. If it requires high resistance to stress due to the small amount of time to complete the tasks, you should find a person who will meet these expectations. Also, when promoting people inside the company, it should be remembered that not everyone is suitable for every job. Sometimes an employee who is perfectly successful in a lower position becomes ineffective when being promoted, and cannot cope with managing people or their responsibilities.

4. Clear goals and responsibilities - In order not to create a conflict or ambiguity in the professional role of your employees, delegate tasks and responsibilities in a very clear way. Every employee should know exactly what to do and when. A significant proportion of employees struggle with the stress caused by just being uninformed and not knowing who to report to with a problem. It is also important to plan projects in advance so as to deprive subordinates of the element of surprise and uncertainty whether they will manage to complete their daily duties or will be overwhelmed with unexpected additional work, which will result in neglect and problems.

5. A place where you can relax - and it's not about the work model that Google has adopted. Not everyone can afford such organization of the company. However, in every workplace there should be a place where employees can eat, make coffee and - by taking a break from the computer, for example - talk to a colleague about the weather or their favorite series. It is extremely important for both physical hygiene - keyboards are not a menu for the whole week - as well as mental hygiene, because for a moment we stop thinking about the task at hand, we relax and distance ourselves from our duties.

6. Promoting an atmosphere of mutual help and cooperation - it is not about relieving or overusing the good heart of one employee by another, but about supporting group activities, mutual support and dialogue. Employees should be able to participate in decisions made in the company.

Employers should remember that work can not only be a source of stress for them. Even if at first glance it seems that all employees are functioning properly, after a deeper analysis it may turn out that many of them experience excessive work stress. Fighting it and counteracting it is one of the basic obligations of employers. Taking into account the negative effects of stress on the employee and the company, modern employers should not underestimate this phenomenon in their companies.