In dealing with the current and unfamiliar global crisis, smart stress management for both managers and their employees is becoming increasingly important.
Stress often arises in the work context when a person cannot cope with a task or challenge because important resources, such as time, money, work equipment or knowledge, are missing. In addition, problems such as uncertainty, unsafety, lack of leadership and poor corporate culture, play a critical role in the increase of stress levels at work. Especially during periods of intense economic and societal upheaval, enormous burdens on managers and employees emerge, which make efficiency at work and good performance even more difficult.
The worst part about stress in the workplace is that, in addition to reducing performance levels, mental and physical illnesses can also arise that are often overlooked. In fact, the latest findings from empirical brain research in the US has shown that severe stress that business owners face at work, can lead to poor managerial decisions and a significant reduction in performance for the company as a whole.
If you are a business owner running your own company, regardless of how big or small it is, or of how many people you employ, you will constantly have to deal with stressful situations, and in many cases an uncertain future. That is okay and it is normal and expected. You are not alone. The majority of entrepreneurs, who care about the development and growth of their business, are continuously thinking of the challenges they have to face every day, and the problems that appear when they are building a start-up, or working daily on their business, or planning to sell it.
There are no one-size-fits-all solutions for stress at work, but proven techniques and methods help overwhelmed employers and employees improve their work environment. Here are some important things that you can do to promote stress management and resilience within your business and team:
Which are the main causes of stress in your workplace?
As mentioned above there is a variety of reasons why stressful situations occur at the workplace. As a business owner, you probably feel that you carry most of the responsibility, not just for the great function of your business, but also for the well-being of your employees. Therefore, in order to create a great work environment for everyone, you first need to identify what creates stress within in your business.
➥ Organizational Problems: Organizational reasons for stress in the workplace are unrealistic workloads, multi-tasking, time pressure, short deadlines, monotony, and other frequently occurring disruptions, that put constant pressure on you and your staff to perform well at all times.
➥ Competition: In order to remain competitive, many companies are reducing jobs or demanding more from their employees. A great deal of competitive pressure is spreading, and in this fight for the remaining jobs, one's own needs usually take a back seat. The idea that also prevails in the younger generation is “you work at the limit – until your own system fails”. The constant fear and job insecurity has been the main cause of stress in the US over the past two years.
➥ Communicative Stress: Lack of communication and clarity in the workplace is another big cause of stress at work, and in most cases, it leads to bad business decisions. Communicative deficits, either between senior team members and more junior employees, between colleagues or different departments – especially when most of the work is done virtually and people are not in the same room or office – can create a series of problems within the company, as well as confusion and obscurity. Additionally, when the communication is not clear, tasks between members overlap frequently, are overlooked, forgotten or passed on from one person to the next.
➥ Poor Leadership: A company’s goals are usually set from the “top-down”, starting from the business owner and the managers, who set the “rules” and communicate their vision to the rest of the employees. If the company does not have an experienced leader with a clear direction, then it is like a ship adrift. Employees just do not know where to go and what to do, they do not have a mentor to guide them and do not create high standards for themselves, the company and the customers.
➥ Bad Employee Relationships: Conflicts within the business drastically increase stress levels and split co-workers apart instead of bringing them together. There is no unity in the company, therefore employees work to either outdo each other or try to avoid each other, without a collaborative or team work spirit. Arguments at work and bad business relationships are also the number one reason why people quit their jobs.
➥ Personal Problems: Difficulties in our personal lives are of course something that no one can avoid. It all, however, becomes worse when personal problems are “brought” to work and become work problems. Anyone who experiences conflicts in private (arguments, loss, illness, poor health and physical condition) might unwillingly bring a high level of tension to work, while also facing high demands in the job.
Stress management refers to methods that aim to improve the interpretation of stressful situations, but also to coping strategies that are used to reduce stress levels, by managing or avoiding factors that cause stress.
Stress management is regarded as a critical systematic approach in the corporate world, and in some of the largest companies across the country, it is taught as a compulsory seminar lesson to new hires. It usually compromises of four main techniques:
Ideally, the person concerned recognizes impending excessive demands and can master, avoid or actively change them with consciously initiated behaviors. Successful entrepreneurs also consider stress management as one of their core skills, as they are constantly called to face challenges and manage unpredictable situations, where they need to make important decisions not just for themselves, but also for all the people in the company that they represent.
It is important that employees – despite working from home – continue to feel integrated into the social structures of the company, and have a comfortable space in the business, where they can share their worries, questions, weaknesses and mistakes, and receive guidance, advice and honest feedback from their seniors and leaders. As stress is in most cases an integral part of the business world, whether you are an accomplished business owner or you are just starting out, the best way to cope with it, is to learn how to manage it and control it.
➥ Create a Plan: One of the main principles of the Growth To Exit course is creating a plan for yourself and your business, whether you are working on it daily or planning to sell it and have a successful exit. Having plans about the company’s direction and target goals, about what to do in times of crisis, how to deal with unpredictable events, or just what the monthly, weekly and daily schedules look like, all those plans convey security. Those who have deadlines and tasks clearly in mind do these activities more concentrated and therefore, better. Overall, an organized environment where priorities are set, positively influences work processes and helps bring in bigger results.
➥ Communicate with your Team: Communicating a clear message to your employees and colleagues is the best way to avoid misunderstanding and confusion at work. When everyone is on the same page, the business as a whole works more efficiently, employees produce faster and serve customers better. A great leader is also, always open to hearing others’ opinions and questions and guiding them to the right answers, while also providing them with valuable insights. Sometimes the necessary help is within reach, but those who do not speak up will never know whether changes are within their realm of possibility.
➥ Give Recognition: A true leader is never afraid to praise his or her well performing mentees, give them rewards, express gratitude and recognize their achievements, which makes employees feel motivated to work harder and succeed. On the other hand, underestimating people’s hard work will lead to them feeling disappointed and uncertain about their future at a particular job.
➥ Suggest Break Times: Those who regularly refrain from taking breaks do not refuel. Chronically long loads of work endanger the quality of the work results, lead to lack of movement (at office jobs), create anxiety, stress, while also reducing enthusiasm and concentration levels.
➥ Learn to Say “No”: It is sometimes difficult to politely reject requests or assignments. Initially, saying “no” is a tedious learning process, but it helps reduce the amount of stress at work, especially when you are already under pressure. Saying “no” is really about self-protection at work and balancing your work, personal life and free time.
➥ Create a Great Company Culture: Employees who work hard deserve to feel that their great performance is appreciated. Having a fun, but at the same time ambitious environment at work, will help your employees feel inspired and proud to be part of the team and community that you have created within your business.
➥ Turn Negative Stress to Positive Stress: For some people, stress helps interpret challenges positively and therefore, see them in a new light, so the distinction between positive and negative stress is worthwhile. Many employees approach difficult tasks with excitement and think “my boss trusts me and believes in me, that's why I get this demanding task”, which boosts them with even more motivation and confidence.
When the demands in the workplace exceed one's own competencies and resources, stress arises. Unclear structures, problems with work equipment, a distracting environment, tensions and interpersonal problems can exacerbate the situation. Although today, stress is considered “normal” in people’s daily lives both inside and outside of work, it can dramatically decrease employees’ performance if it is not taken seriously and controlled.
To remove stress at work, managers should be able to prioritize goals and distinguish between important and less important tasks. With a structured schedule, in which private matters can also be accommodated, a healthy balance of work and personal life can be achieved. Dismissing exaggerated ideals and perfectionist demands on one’s self as a leader, creating business plans, implementing strategies and making meaningful changes will help any entrepreneur, whether they are just starting out with a new venture or plan to sell a business and retire.