As a leadership coach I’ve had the privilege to work with some fantastic businesses and inspirational people over the years. All with their own unique set of aspirations and challenges. No two are the same and that is what makes work and life so fascinating.
So, whether I’m coaching young professionals, senior managers, directors, CEOs, or business owners, it pains me to see significant stress at every level. Of course, this is all relative, but it is very real too. The impact of stress on an individual, their colleagues, family, and friends shouldn’t be understated.
Typically, many employees feel pressured into working overly long hours. Some come into conflict with fellow workers. While poor leadership and communication leave staff members hopelessly exposed in situations where they should be supported. These experiences are just the tip of the iceberg, but they create high levels of anxiety that compromise the mental health of employees.
The world we live in, has a big say too. A connected world dominated by 24/7 communications. I remember growing up as a young lad and playing out with my pals. I would make my way to the nearest red telephone box and call my mum to ask her when she wanted me home for tea! That was a usual occurrence, and it served a purpose. But of course, life and tech move on.
In the modern age, contact is much more instantaneous. The mobile phone (or what more readily resembles a personal computer) has changed that. The reality is that much of what we do at work and in our everyday lives evolves around this small but immensely powerful piece of digital innovation. Round the clock social media notifications and work emails (yes, I’ve seen them at 1.00 and 2.00 in the morning!) create a relentless frenzy of communications that lock people in work mode, even when they sleep. Not conducive to a healthy mind.
For some switching off from work is easy, but for others it is simply not an option. In a lot of cases this boils down to a fear of the consequences. Whether that be the implications of failing to respond to a client quickly enough, being unavailable to take a call from the boss out of hours or simply not getting through a seemingly never ending to-do-list.
Understanding staff needs
With a rise in home working combined with greater connectivity and availability, the concern is that the lines between home and work life are now so blurred that some people are no longer able to achieve a reasonable balance between the two. A situation that creates its own pressure.
While remote working has been largely embraced by workers across the UK, there are still many who are left feeling isolated as a result. Not every home is suited or set up for office working. And then there are the distractions of other occupants and the lack of face-to-face interaction – something we all took for granted. That said, working remotely from the office is seemingly here to stay. So now more than ever, it is important to understand the evolving needs of employees to avoid the inevitable build-up of stress.
I’m not advocating that any employee should be given an easy ride at work. However, a sensible balance needs to be struck here between the needs of the business and the individual, so that wellbeing becomes an integral part of strategic thinking. Let’s not forget, it is people that create successful businesses. How they are understood, managed, and supported directly impacts on their mental health, productivity, performance, and the bottom line.
So, if you are a leader, make a positive move and prioritise the wellbeing of your team. Follow these five simple steps to better understand and support the needs of every person to keep stress at bay:
ASSESS – Establish a person’s strengths, key motives, and conflict sequences to build more effective relationships at work
ASK – Engage with your team members frequently on a one-to-one basis to understand their key needs, concerns, and challenges. Look out for any tell-tale signs of stress or anxiety and address this quickly
LISTEN – Take on board all feedback and think about how you can best support their needs, to achieve their goals and those of the business
ACT – Prepare an action plan and organise one-to-one reviews to measure progress
SUPPORT – Maintain an ‘open-door’ policy where your team feel comfortable to talk openly about their thoughts, concerns, and needs
Recognising the signs of stress in the workplace is critical, so it can be managed effectively. The earlier an issue is addressed the less impact it is likely to have. But more than this, businesses need to put people and wellbeing at the heart of their strategy. Only then, will we see much needed progress in this area.