How To Curb Stress in 2023
Tips for Managers & Leaders to Guide Employees Through Stress
By Hanna Marcus and Chuck Cusumano
It seems that in a world full of uncertainties – a pandemic, unrest, the changing political climate – there is one sure thing we simply cannot escape: Stress.
From the hustle and bustle of the workplace to the walls of our homes, stress – in many forms – seems to follow us wherever we go.
In some ways, stress is truly the great equalizer – no matter who you are, what you do, or where you are from, stress will find you. Whether you are a high-level CEO, an executive, a new team member at Chick-Fil-A, a student, a stay-at-home parent, etc., stress will find you.
Most articles about stress begin with bold claims that we live in one of the most stressful times in history. Stress levels skyrocketed in 2020, reaching an all-time high. And according to the American Psychology Association (APA), stress levels were even higher in 2021. This was especially true in the workplace.
A Gallup poll reported that around 44% of employees claimed to have experienced “a lot of daily stress” in 2021 and that, globally, about 21% of employees feel engaged at work.
Here is the good news, though: this blog is not about the fact that stress is inescapable. This blog is about how to manage and curb stress in a high-stress environment – especially from a managerial perspective.
Stress, even in our 2022 post-pandemic world, seems to be impacting workers on every level.
As a manager or leader in charge of directing a team and keeping morale high, much of that stress management and mitigation is going to fall on your shoulders.
For starters, you will need to learn how to manage and balance your own stress levels –because a stressed-out manager who is always on edge cannot help his or her employees manage their own stress.
Secondly, you will need to figure out ways to reduce and mitigate stress in the office while empowering your employees to manage their own stress in healthy ways. Not sure where to start? This blog has some helpful tips to kickstart the process of curbing and managing stress in the workplace.
How to Curb Employee Stress in a High-Stress World
Helping your employees balance and manage their stress matters – and that is because your employees matter. Even if that is something you already genuinely feel, what matters most is that your employees know that.
When employees feel cared for, they are more likely to be more productive, lead happier lives, and feel more fulfilled overall. A Forbes article references a study that says inspired employees are more likely to over-achieve in the workplace, and sometimes their productivity rates can skyrocket to 225%.
But that all starts with caring for your employees – and part of that is recognizing and helping them manage their stress.
Start With You
It is impossible to help employees address their stress if you are a stress ball yourself. Take some time to reflect on you, your stress levels, and your triggers – then figure out a plan for reducing that stress. Only after you have figured out how to manage your own stress (notice we did not say solve, that is probably impossible) can you start being a helping hand to your employees and colleagues.
Listen & Empathize with Employees
Have you considered an open-door policy for your employees? If you already have one of these, do your employees know about it and utilize it? While it is not appropriate for you to act as a counselor or a therapist, it is your job to provide your employees with a safe space to vent their workplace concerns and stressors. It does not always fall on HR to provide relief – you need to be a reliable resource for your employees, too.
Teach Employees to Track Stressors (And Know Theirs, Too)
What is the trigger that sets an employee off? First and foremost, your employees need to know what stresses them out and why – but you also need to be aware of this. Good managers and top-notch leaders take time to invest in and understand their employees.
Understanding them – their likes, dislikes, and stress points – can help you better manage them. Importantly, reiterate to your employees that it is not just about tracking stressors; it is about acknowledging them when they arise. It is not always possible to avoid triggers, but that does not mean you should ignore them.
Establish Boundaries & Encourage Employees to Do the Same
Do you have workplace boundaries in place? Do your employees? It is not healthy for your employees (or you, for that matter) to have seemingly no separation of work and personal life – but often, that is how hardworking, dedicated employees feel they need to be to get ahead. Explain to your staff that boundaries matter for a reason, and further, you will respect when they do set those boundaries.
Take it a step further by leading by example. If your employees see you burning the candle at both ends, never taking a break, and letting stress get the best of you, they will follow suit. Set an example by setting boundaries and managing your stress in appropriate and healthy ways.
Provide Mental Health Benefits
If it is possible, provide your employees with support when they need it in the form of mental health and physical health benefits. Whether this is in the form of health benefits, access to a gym membership, meditation, or something else, providing a mental and physical health resource for your employees can encourage them to find a healthy outlet for their stress.
Encourage Appropriate Time Off
If your employees have time off stacking up, encourage them to take it. If someone needs to take a day of PTO, check in with them and give them the go-ahead. Have you noticed an employee is putting off their vacation time over and over? Schedule a sit down with them to figure out what the holdup is. Can they postpone a big project at work without slowing down the team so they can take their vacation? Invest in your employees and make sure they know you care – then encourage them to take adequate time off.
Not sure where to start when it comes to helping your employees manage their stress? Not sure where to start with your own? Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more ideas, creative solutions, and support!