Let’s face it. The workplace can cause stress. Some stressors are inevitable; however, managers and supervisors can miss opportunities to help minimize and/or prevent stress within their team. Those in leadership are in a key position to create a healthy work culture and foster authenticity and clarity instead of anxiety.
So how can managers help to minimize stress and anxiety? Here are six things to consider:
1. Elevate Your Emotional Intelligence
Leading your team with high emotional intelligence will help foster a healthy work environment. Leaders with high EQ are effective communicators, attentive listeners, empathetic, encourage collaboration and assertively address conflict. These attributes help to bring calm and clarity to employees and help to minimize and/or eliminate the low emotional intelligence actions of some employees (i.e., gossiping, passive-aggression, bullying, complaining, etc.) who can negatively influence the team. The soft skills of emotional intelligence have a trickle-down effect that can create a healthy boundary against potential toxicity.
2. Don’t Waste Employee Time
One stressor many employees feel is not having the time needed to get work done due to unnecessary meetings or poor communication around expectations. Make sure there’s a clear agenda when planning meetings and that the time away from their desks is worth it. If what you have to communicate can be sent in an email or a quick conversation, opt for either of those instead. Also, provide realistic deadlines and clear communication on what is needed to help decrease anxiety and stress around projects.
3. Be Flexible
As an employer and manager, be mindful that you have people who work for you, not robots. Employees have lives outside of work that can affect their mental health and impact their performance and productivity. Offer flex-time for the individuals that may need it. This can be for parents with a newborn, those with aging parents who need assistance, or a personal health issue. Do not forget to consider those who are experiencing grief and loss. There’s a misconception that if you allow employees to work from home or have shorter in-office work hours, they will be less productive. Contrary to that belief, research has shown that employees’ productivity improves, along with an increased sense of gratitude and appreciation towards the employer.
4. Keep Communication During Work Hours
Try not to send emails outside work hours (i.e., in the middle of the night/weekends). These after-work communications can increase your employees’ anxiety even if you state that you are not expecting them to respond. Many employees will feel obligated to reply upon receipt and may follow suit by sending and checking emails during their personal time. If you need to write an email that is not time-sensitive, choose to compose and save the draft to be sent later. You can even schedule when to send emails. Worst case scenario, ensure your disclaimer is clear and genuine to the recipient that a reply isn’t needed immediately.
5. Create Belonging
Nothing sucks more than spending most of your day in some place where you feel you do not matter. Employees want to feel seen and heard. Leaders can help build rapport and healthy employee relationships by communicating and encouraging team building. When an employee feels that they are part of a team and that their voice matters, they will feel safer expressing when something isn’t going right personally or professionally and are quicker to resolve a problem with their boss or leader than to leave the organization due to feelings of rejection and ‘not mattering.’
6. Stop Micro-managing
Whether crossing physical boundaries like hovering over your employee, or electronic boundaries such as serial emails and calls, micro-managing hurts you and your employee. It robs both of you of productive time and insinuates that you do not trust their capabilities. Why hire them if you do not feel they are competent? Micro-managing can have a once confident employee feeling anxious and riddled with self-doubt, leaving you receiving less than their best. Realize that micro-managing has less to do with your employee’s abilities and more to do with your insecurities.
Some people thrive under stress, while others can buckle under the weight of it. Choosing ways not to overwhelm your employees gives them space to do their jobs well and minimize absenteeism. An example is an employee who operates at a lower level after returning from a short-term disability due to stress-induced mental health issues. Being intentional in creating a stressless environment and addressing the mental health of your employees will create a win/win situation for everyone.