Preventing Workplace Stress: What Managers and Supervisors Can Do

Posted on December 30, 2013 by VITAL WorkLife

While managers and supervisors may not have the ability to address stress caused by business conditions or factors in the organizational culture, they can have a major impact on their direct reports' level of stress by ensuring that requirements of each job are a good match for the capabilities, resources or needs of the individual employee assigned to it.

"The amount of energy needed to deal with a stressed-out employee is often far greater than the amount of energy it would have taken to prevent workplace stress in the first place," says Liz Ferron, senior consultant for Workplace Behavioral Solutions.

Here are five easy strategies every manager and supervisor can employ to reduce workplace stress:

  1. Encourage & Sponsor Breaks: Remind your employees about the importance of lunch and restroom breaks. If your employees don't know that a glass of water and a short walk are more energizing than a cup of coffee—you should tell them. Tout the re-energizing benefits of long weekends and family vacations. Surprise them occasionally with a pizza or healthy takeout—and then eat as a team. Show them you genuinely care about their well being.
  2. Outlaw Perfectionism: Encouraging your employees to do the best they can every day is better than expecting them to adhere to unrealistic performance goals. If everything has to be done perfectly and there's too much to be done, something's got to give. It's up to you to prioritize the things that must be done today—and postpone or reassign what the employee standing in front you won't be able to get done.
  3. Enhance the Environment: Brighter lighting, better seating, new paint, aroma therapies and other changes to the physical environment are methods that have been associated with reduced stress. More than the specifics of what you do, making noticeable changes in the environment will speak louder than words about your commitment to reducing workplace stress.
  4. Accentuate the Positive: People under stress may not take time to pat themselves on the back, so by all means do it for them. Create milestones for projects larger and small. For larger achievements reward employees with formal recognition—and financial incentives where possible. For smaller tasks, reward early and often with small pieces of candy, stickers or points toward some larger prize.
  5. Model Good Stress Management: Staying calm under pressure isn't just good for your own blood pressure, it gives your employees an example to follow.

Feel like your personal ability to handle stress isn't where it needs to be? Provide stress management training for your employees—and then learn alongside them. Or, take advantage of one-on-one counseling through your free EAP benefit.

"It sends a powerful message to your employees when they can see you employing the same stress management tools you're encouraging them to use," concludes Ferron.

Pathways to Well Being Call VITAL WorkLife at 800.383.1908 or access resources through your VITAL WorkLife App. 

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