It’s that time of year again: the start of the holiday season, loose ends unraveling in the office, and all those last-minute backflow tests to get done. Stress Awareness Day -tomorrow- might sound like hogwash to you, but it’s a good reminder to take inventory of your employees stress levels. It’s also a reminder that your business can cause you less stress if you take certain steps.
What are some of the signs of stress in the workplace?
If you’re suddenly seeing a change in an employee, this is often a sign that they’re overworked and over-stressed! Here are some common signs your employees are stressed.
1. A drop in work performance or out-put. When there’s A LOT to do, it’s easy to get distracted by the amount of things to do rather than get the things done. It’s also a lot more common to try to get the work done, but in a less-thorough way. Instead of an employee doing 100% on their work, they’re doing 80% on MORE work.
2. Sicks days being taken more often. When a body is stressed, the immune system is also weakened. Take note of that and see how you can help lighten the load!
3. Overall change in behavior If an A+ employee is suddenly forgetful, clumsy, tired, or just down-in-the-dumps, you might want to see if their workload has increased recently. (If you’re expecting a technician to do 20 backflow tests a day when he or she is used to doing 15, expect a change in stress!)
What can you do to decrease stress?
I’m always preaching to use proactive rather than reactive measures. Stress in the workplace is definitely a place where that’s true. Let’s check out some ways to both reduce stress and prevent it in the future.
1. Organization is huge. Look around your office. Is it piled high with paper? Get rid of it. (C3 can help you with going paperless.) Are your techs texting you in the evening to get their routes for the following day? Plan routes in advance so you’re not scrambling every second to get things together. This might mean putting in extra time initially, but your employees (and yourself!) will be less stressed long-term.
2. Communication is key! Communicate that you have an open-door policy. Remind your employees that you are always open to chat or discuss larger issues. By encouraging your employees to come to you, you’ll reduce stress right away. Being open with your employees reduces uncertainty and improves communication – both things that will reduce stress. The unknown is stressful! Be communicative with upcoming projects, deadlines; don’t expect your employees to read your mind!
3. Flexible scheduling can help. If at possible, let your employees set their own reasonable schedules. If a backflow technician wants to be in the field at 6am until 2pm, and gets the work done, cool! Then, he or she can have time to pick up their kids from school, and have some free time in the afternoon. Work is part of life, but it’s not ALL of life. If you have employees working 5 8-hour days, consider letting them switch to 4 10-hour days. There are many ways to do flexible scheduling and it can greatly decrease stress if done correctly.
4. Now, while I’ve talked about how to reduce stress, there’s another key factor in managing stress in employees. Recognize that some employees prefer and work better under certain stress. Certain techs may be bored if you lighten their load – so it’s key to understand which employees crumble under more work load and which ones consistently rise to the occasion. Neither employee is better or worse; everyone handles stress differently. This goes back to communication. If you check in with an employee that has a heavier load, but lets you know that he’s doing great, believe him!
5. If nothing else, bring in some of that leftover Halloween candy to the office. Nothing like a little sugar high to help with stress! Have a safe and stress-free Halloween!