Leaders can focus on a few ways to reduce stress at work, becoming the example and helping to provide balance and increase productivity.
Balancing time, work and all the priorities that come with life is never easy. Worst of all is that lack of balance leads to stress. In order to reduce stress and find balance, there are specific steps a leader can take to ensure that they exemplify balance and assist their team in achieving their own.
What Causes Stress?
Stress is caused by overload. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 58% of Canadians report overload or stress due to the many priorities they have associated with work life and home life. More importantly, financial issues cause the most stress.
In a survey by Desjardins Financial Security, nearly 50% of respondents cited money as their top stressor and also found that 37% of Canadians did not take time off work when physically ill because they needed the money.
Imagine the limited productivity or ability to spread infection that can grow because of this compounded stress – illness, work and money pressures.
How Stress Affects Business
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, stress and overload or burnout costs Canadian business $12 billion annually in health claims, lost productivity and absenteeism.
Highly stressed employees missed and average of 7.2 days per year while their lower stressed counterparts only missed an average of 3.6 days per year. Mental health claims for depression are on the rise leading to higher disability costs, and the competitive hiring and retention practices are at risk.
No longer are those entering the workforce looking for financial benefits and advancement, workers aged 21-30 (Generation Y) are looking for work life balance and prioritize it ahead of financial growth and advancement when evaluating job choices.
Leaders can take steps to reduce stress at work and develop balance by being the model of balance for their teams. They can get away from their desk a lunch time and go for a walk.
Working through lunch demonstrates commitment to the team and at the same time shows the team that the leader does not know how to manage or balance time. Interact with the team, go for a walk, breathe and stretch. It will make a difference to everyone.
Restrict overtime and set boundaries on electronic communication during off-work hours. There comes a time in everyday where people are no longer productive and just busy. The access to technology, whether mobile or wireless, creates availability expectations that are 24/7. The technology is also addicting and ego-boosting.
The problem is it interferes with personal time and private time. By setting boundaries and restricting overtime, the 24/7 availability pressure lessens and relieves stress. People need to know that it is acceptable to not be available for work calls during off-work hours.
Following overtime restriction, leaders should let the team know their availability and schedule. This helps them understand the boundaries of time, projects in play, how the leader fits into the picture or the project and even gives an indication of the condition of calendar for the moment, or the day or the week.
Colleagues and teammates will be able to gauge how to fit into the schedule and make respectful requests to be part of the agenda. This model can teach the team to do the same.
It is OK to ask the team member or colleague for time to complete what is being worked on before dealing with the situation. This helps the team member also provide options to others when they find themselves in the same circumstance.
Giving the team space or asking for space is not dictatorial, it collaborative and provides a better foundation for building your relationship.
Take vacation time. Time away from work provides rest. By the leader’s example, permission is given for others to do the same. It empowers the team, provides an opportunity for growth and development. It gives the team something to be proud of, that they can show their success.
Another way to develop more balance at work and reduce stress is to look at the workplace practices and focuses that could be implemented or eliminated. Examples include eliminating unnecessary reports or meetings. Sometimes meetings take place with little focus and no agenda.
Correct this by providing a clear agenda, inviting only the necessary participants and set a finite time frame with specific objectives. This will get work done and the meeting productive. The team will appreciate the effort and productivity, and actually be ready to participate next time. This can also lead to changes in meetings that team members host by following the example set out.
Look at reports that are redundant. Are there reports that have the same information sliced in numerous ways? Which are the reports that are needed all the time? Some time? No longer needed and are just completed because of an old habit?
Communicating clear expectations to the team helps to reduce stress. If the team understands the objectives and no longer needs to guess what is required, then work performed will meet the leader’s expectation and even go beyond.
Also, allowing the team the ability to control their own priorities helps to empower, show trust and provide more space for collaboration and execution. From the leader’s side, providing follow up with the team clears space on their agenda to get their own work completed.
Providing ongoing feedback in individual performance reduces stress a great deal. After all, if the team member knows what they do well they will do more of it, and if they know what they need to improve upon, they will!
Good leaders help your team cross the finish line with feedback and improvement tips, encouragement and support. Good leaders cross the finish line with the team because they are never out there on the track alone. Feedback will reduce stress and create more balance in the workplace – watch it happen.