If your employees are stressed, it will cause problems. Here’s how to monitor stress levels within your team and keep them down.
A recent study in the UK showed that 37pc of all work-related ill health cases in 2015 and 2016 were due to stress.
The study identified workload pressure and lack of managerial support as the main factors.
Sometimes, a certain amount of stress can help employees to focus and meet an important deadline, but it’s never sustainable and will have detrimental effects on your team in the long run.
Rising stress levels will lead to poor productivity, illness and absenteeism, which will amount to more pressure on the rest of your employees, causing a dangerous ripple effect.
While employees might be aware of the dangers of burnout, their company culture will often dictate how much they ignore their own warning signs.
This means that it’s up to you, the HR professionals, team leaders and people managers, to watch out for the stress levels of your employees and keep them at a manageable level.
Watch the stress levels
Firstly, all HR managers should perform regular, quick assessments of their employees when they can. This shouldn’t take any more work than simply paying attention. How do they look? Tired, stressed or run-down employees will usually have physical attributes that confirm these conditions.
How has their performance been? Has their work deteriorated in quality? Are they making careless mistakes that they wouldn’t usually? Alternatively, are they working longer hours or skipping lunches? Becoming a workaholic is just as dangerous as slipping up as a result of stress.
How have their emotions and social interactions been? Are they noticeably more irritable, quiet or despondent? Noticing all of these small personality changes in your employees can give you ample warning as to whether or not stress levels are reaching breaking point.
What to do
To get ahead of a stress ripple effect, you may need to get senior management involved, especially when it comes to instilling a positive company culture that enables employees to look after their own mental health.
If you feel that your whole company needs some help looking after stress levels, a workplace wellness programme might be something to consider.
Mental health organisations such as Suicide or Survive offer programmes that promote wellness and mindfulness in the workplace, and give employees and managers tips and advice on ensuring everyone is taken care of.
Flexible work arrangements
Life challenges employees in a number of different ways and sometimes, being stuck in work while trying to deal with a personal matter can elevate an employee’s stress to unhealthy levels.
Giving your employees the flexibility to work from home, make up their hours or just take some personal time out can give them the peace of mind they need to handle their problems, without additional anxiety.
Management of expectations
As the UK study shows, a large amount of stress-related illnesses in the last year were due to unrealistic expectations from managers. This is where you need to involve the higher-up leaders and discuss the expectations they have of their staff.
You also need open communication with the employees themselves to see if they’re being pushed to their limits. Managers might want a certain output but, when it really comes down to it, they’ll prefer quality over quantity. This will mean lowering the demands and, by extension, stress levels.
We’ve talked before about an open-door policy not always being enough when it comes to employees trusting HR. However, showing empathy and interest in your employees will create a natural bond and open up a conversation about any worries they have, both in and outside of work.
While managing the stress levels of an entire team or department sounds like a lot of work, much of it is done through observation and communication with employees.
Check in on them regularly. This doesn’t mean you have to set up hundreds of one-to-one conversations – you can just pop in to see how they’re getting on. Repeating this process will help you to ascertain what high stress levels look like and will ensure you get ahead of breaking point in the future.