Stress Prevention: People nowadays have more and more stress. Everything has to be faster, more efficient and even better than it was before. Modern society is fast-paced, and the bar is constantly being raised. And now, there is more and more talk of ‘burnout’. An ever-increasing problem that you as a manager or HR can deal with.
Stress at work causes fatigue, tension and eventually production loss. Health costs continue to rise and there is little you can do to help, right?
Stress: A Never-ending Problem Within Companies
The average absence level in the Netherlands is 3.5%. Within this 3.5%, there is an increasing problem. Psychological absence has increased in recent years. Mercer, a global provider of advice in the areas of Health, Wealth and Career, conducted a major European study that showed 70% of absence is caused by stress. Stress has become the number 1 cause of workplace sickness. When stress is the cause of absence, it usually means for employers that they have lost their employee for an extended period of time. On average, an employee experiencing a burnout is at home for 242 days.
Failure Costs Money
Workers’ absence, therefore costs a lot of money every year. A burnout can easily cost €70,000! Not only do the costs of illness increase, but also the revenues decrease because employees within teams fall out. You, therefore, aren’t only incurring costs due to continued payment of wages, but also to replace the sick employee. In addition, it can adversely affect the productivity of your company, which in turn leads to an increase in the workload on your employees and as a result causes stress. Your business soon becomes a negative, vicious circle. Knowledge is key, learning how stress can be reduced within your organization is certainly not a luxury.
How much stress is there in your organization? That is an important question that every manager should ask him/herself. Are your employees experiencing a little stress? Then you certainly deserve a big compliment! Unfortunately, this is rare. But even if that were the case, then of course: prevention is better than the cure.
Part of Company Culture
You avoid stress with the entire organization. Only an intervention, does not prevent the real problem. Stress prevention must be part of the corporate culture. But of course, you do not change the company culture overnight, time is needed. The first step in the right direction is to recognize and acknowledge the problems. A lot of psychological absences can be prevented by recognizing signals early and by talking to the employee. Such a conversation can be difficult to conduct because most people find it difficult to talk about problems such as these.
Power of Communication
Yet the beginning of the solution lies in open and honest communication with your employees. And what are those signals that you can recognize? For example, the employee feels tired and has lower productivity than normal. He is becoming more and more cynical about the work and has a lot of difficulty with changes. He is irritated quicker and has more physical complaints. In the end, he reports sick frequently.
More relaxation in the workplace
One way to get rid of stress is to create moments at work where employees can relax. In today’s society, everyone can be reached around the clock, 24/7 and the work pressure is, therefore, slipping off the shoulders. Without sufficient relaxation, employees will soon experience a lot of stress and sleepless nights. Relaxation is crucial to lay down the work next to you. This is so important outside of working hours, but also during work there must be room for it.
Happy staff are Productive Staff
A manager who gives his employees a moment of relaxation every now and then during work will considerably increase the happiness of their employees. This is not only great for the employees, but also for the manager. Fortunately, staff will generally work productively, cooperate well and be ill less often. The sense of responsibility also increases. Relaxation at work thus creates a win-win situation for everyone.
If employees are not able to carry out their work in a relaxed manner and the spring is always under load, problems won’t be long to follow. A tense employee will have difficulty keeping his head at work. In addition, he can be lifeless and tired.
The problem is that the employee runs the risk of ending up in a downward spiral. Due to the stress, the effectiveness of his efforts is deteriorating. Because of this he will have more work at the end of the day, which makes him feel even more stressed.
Invest in Relaxation
Although the cause of the tension can’t always be removed easily, a listening ear is of great help. Give your employee the time to walk around the block or place a football table in the cafeteria. In this way, the thoughts can be channeled, so that the continuation of the work becomes easier.
To Invest in Stress Prevention
Although the time for relaxation seems to cost money, the opposite is the case. As a manager, you obviously see your employees prefer to work hard, but time for relaxation has to be considered an investment. Remember that five or ten minutes of relaxation are reclaimed through productivity, creativity and the good cooperation that is created by this. Moreover, you will significantly reduce the chance of someone being K.O’d by a burnout. In this way, money is also saved, because someone who is burnt out is often months “sat on the bench” so to speak.
Which relaxation is suitable, can depend on the company culture and the individual employee. A manager can orient himself by asking his employees what kind of relaxation they like. For example, you can place a TV, board games or a ping pong table in the cafeteria. Even a small gym is often appreciated.
When an employee is stressed, the focus is usually on preventing and possibly treating the negative consequences. Although this way of prevention is important, it is only aimed at employees who are already suffering from stress to some extent.
Now that more and more is known about the causes of work stress, there is also other forms of prevention that can be taken care of. This is how so many managers try to focus on positive psychology. This has everything to do with creating positive work experience and this is aimed at all employees, so that everyone can benefit from it. This form of prevention is often called amplification. In amplification, a supervisor does not try to prevent the negative consequences of stress. The aim is to prevent negative stress by creating a positive work situation. The goal is to make employees enthusiastic, satisfied, productive and energetic.
An enthusiastic employee gets satisfaction from his work. This passion for his work will give him positive energy so that he will be quicker to help colleagues. Moreover, enthusiastic employees are diligent and energetic, but how can a manager now make his employees more enthusiastic? The ingredients for this are:
- Behavioral activities
- Cognitive activities
- Motivational activities
This includes positive behavior that improves the working atmosphere. The manager plays a major role in this, as his initiative to show kindness is likely to be followed. For example, a compliment or a helping hand can make a big difference. Another way in which a manager can positively influence the working environment is by celebrating achievements together. For example, a bottle of champagne can be a huge reward for employees after a deadline. Moreover, it will strengthen the team spirit. Finally, social relationships on the work floor are important. A manager can set a good example in this by making time to socialise with employees and offer a listening ear.
Expressing gratitude, stimulating optimistic thinking and forgiving employees and colleagues are examples of cognitive activities. Focusing on positive things will create a pleasant climate for managers and employees. A manager can be a good example in this by taking the time to step down and personally thank employees. A sincere e-mail can also make a world of difference. In addition, mutual pardoning is very important to prevent resentment and tension. In this way, a good team spirit is guaranteed.
Activities that Increase Motivation
Motivation is the willingness to perform a certain behavior. Moreover, motivation ensures that someone is encouraged to take action. As a manager, you obviously prefer that all your employees are enthusiastic and motivated. You want to get the best out of your company and your employees. Additionally, it is very important that the work gives the employees satisfaction. If someone does not get satisfaction from his/her work for a long time, they become more at risk of burnout. It is a fine art to keep your employees motivated.
How can you as a manager be a good coach? How can you encourage your employees and ensure that they are driven? Motivational activities rise and fall with the learning of certain skills. This way employees can set a goal in mind and try to achieve it. This process is also something that can be learned and will help staff to function better in the workplace, thereby increasing motivation and pleasure.
For the manager, it is important to motivate these activities by encouraging employees to set goals. During a performance interview, the manager can help the employee to make these goals concrete by means of a step-by-step plan. This can be used during the next performance interview. By applying amplitude, the working atmosphere can quickly be dealt with in a positive way. This gives all employees the necessary attention so that stress can be prevented.
Stress Prevention and the Role of a Manager
As can be seen, stress prevention starts with the supervisor. It is his/her job to lead the task of achieving the set goals of the employees. Is there no responsibility at all for the employee? Often it all comes down to the employee. For example, there are all kinds of apps and programs that have been developed to reduce staff stress.
Although these apps are in theory a great idea, in practice there is little effect. After all, the stressed employee has so much going on in his/her mind that using such an app requires time that is simply not available. The irony is inevitable: There is no time for time-saving apps. What employees really need is guidance and guidance which should be given by the employer.
The right employees
A saying goes ‘first who and then what’. This saying refers to attracting the right staff within a company. When you have the right people on board, you can only determine where you want to go. Without good people on board, you cannot do what you set out to achieve and never rise above yourself. However, this does not necessarily say anything about the “wrong people”. With the good people on board, you have the people that fit the job that needs to be done, but that also fit within the culture of the company. It is, therefore, the mix that determines that employees are suitable for their task. Once you have the right people on board, it is also important to keep them and develop them.
Failure on the Agenda
Keeping a team free from stress is a mission in itself and it is not something that will happen with the flick of a switch. Firstly, it is important to map out a strategy. The next step is to put this strategy into practice. In this way, goals become clear and this will help to curb stress. If there are problems with the dissemination of the strategy, this will slowly but surely cause pressure points. The most diligent employees will fight for achieving goals in order to achieve the desired result. Because all the pressure will be distributed over few employees, the very best forces will suffer from stress.
To lead everything in the right direction, a manager must act as a coach at both individual and team levels. To help employees work strategically, you can, for example, opt for the use of the available time-saving apps. However, the responsibility lies with the employer to bring these apps to the attention of the employee and to help them get the most of the apps.
The fact that the manager plays a major role in stress prevention is clear from the figures. For example, in the work of Gallup, ‘what separates great managers from the rest’ can be seen that an involved manager results in involved employees. Yet only 35% of managers would be sufficiently involved with its staff. There is still a lot of ground to be gained here.
Give (positive) Feedback
As a manager, it is, of course, necessary to critically assess the work of the employees to give good feedback. But above all try to give constructive criticism and try to bring out the positive aspects of someone’s work as much as possible.
Professor William James: Everyone craves appreciation
Positive feedback is very important. The employees have been hired in due time because they can deliver certain quality. Recognize this quality as a manager and your appreciation for the quality delivered. Give a sincere compliment if someone has done a good job. When an employee receives a compliment, he will then become even more motivated to continue his work well. In addition, negative feedback is accepted more quickly if positive feedback is also given.
You could compare it to a nurse who has to take blood. Before she inserts the needle, she prepares the patient for it. She cleanses the skin, makes the patient relaxed and, if necessary, puts a band around so that the vein is clearly visible. In the same way, you can give negative feedback by giving positive feedback first. First name a number of points that you are happy with and then map some improvement points.
Broaden and Deepen Promotional Opportunities
Employees who occasionally receive an extra allowance are prepared to also occasionally make extra work effort. For example, you could give a small bonus when a goal is reached or an employee can go home earlier after a good performance. In addition, it is good to offer room for personal growth. Make sure that the work is not a daily routine.
Employees become demotivated if they don’t feel challenged, if there is no clarity about their job or if they have no prospect of growth opportunities. Of course, every employee is different. Some employees may prefer clarity and certainty, while others constantly want a challenge. Try to accommodate different wishes. Offer the opportunity to learn new competencies and grow in the work result. If employees can develop and continue to grow, they get more satisfaction from their work.
Growth and promotion opportunities are very underestimated in stress prevention among employees. It is often thought of doing less and reducing tasks.
Eye for the Individual
Not all employees are the same. One person experiences stress faster than the other. It is the art for every individual to learn how to deal with the stress that comes to him or her. An employee must know for himself when too much stress comes to him and how he can anticipate this in order not to end up in a dangerous stress situation. What could you as an employer be aware of? Keep an eye on employees who, for example, do not take a break, eat at their desk and are ready for everyone.
Learning to Recognize Stress
They probably also have a lot to do at home and do not give themselves a moment’s rest. They run a risk of exceeding their limits. The insecure, less assertive or perfectionist employees are also more at risk of burnout. Do not just think of the functioning of your company in total, but also have an eye for each individual and how it feels within your organization. It is important for all employees that they learn to recognize, reverse and discharge physical, mental and emotional stress.
Think About the Future
The world is changing rapidly. When you want to focus on stress prevention, it is good to remember that the world will look very different in a few years from now. People change, structures change and soon good ideas are outdated. Stress prevention therefore also requires a look into the future, without you wanting to be able to capture that future. This is impossible. However, it is possible to discover certain trend lines and to look at what new generations are concerned with.
Lead and Lead
It is important that an employer encourages, motivates and helps his/her employees to develop. For this, managers need sufficient training. This is not just about conducting a proper performance interview every now and then. It is important that the employee also receives further guidance to get the best out of himself. also, it is important to realize that a team consists of individuals who are each unique in terms of personality and they all have their unique personal situation. It is therefore important that personal contact is sought and that this attention is sincere.
A Clear Absence Policy
A sick leave policy determines who is responsible for absences and ‘how the hares run’ when an employee reports sick. Of course, the ambition is to have no absences at all and to keep stress to a minimum. But the reality is that you also have to look at how you can reduce the already existing absences. That is also part of stress prevention.
For example, develop a clear Absence / Sick leave policy. The reality is that a policy of absence is not known in many organizations, or even does not exist at all. If this is the case, then it means that action needs to be taken to implement an absenteeism policy a.s.a.p.
Work on Personal Development
Enjoyment follows as a result of being good at what you do. As a manager, make sure that employees can perform tasks that suit them, having the right people is in the right place. The competences of the employee must be in line with the work he/she has to do. You need to know your employees well, know what competencies they have and know what their dreams, wishes, and ambitions are. If employees have to carry out work that they cannot or do not like, their motivation will plummet. But if they can do something within their natural predisposition and passion, they will perform better and want to prove themselves even more. You will have happy, satisfied and motivated employees and there will be a pleasant working atmosphere. This way they will feel useful, appreciated, enjoy their work and experience less stress.
An employee is so much more effective, but also much happier when tasks may be occupied with their strengths. Use this to your benefit, it is the other side of work stress!
Stress Prevention, and BurnOut Prevention
Since exposure to long-term stress can lead to burnout, stress and burnout prevention go hand in hand. It is important to know what an employee’s requirements are. As mentioned, personal contact is important, but a sense of security is also crucial. Employees must be able to feel at ease during work. This takes away the factor of external stress. One way in which safety is created is by giving employees the opportunity to express themselves without the risk of receiving a scolding afterward. In this way, employees feel better understood. A safe and appreciated feeling will, in turn, improve the performance of each individual and it will benefit the working atmosphere. In addition, an employee must feel safe to express that the work pressure is too much. As a result, excess stress can be made negotiable.
Be Approachable and Accessible
Although much has changed in recent years, many employees still find it difficult to indicate their limits. Maybe they miss a promotion or they get fired. That is why a supervisor must show that he is approachable for such discussions. Excess stress is not good for anyone’s health and it can be a precursor to a burnout. It is therefore important to recognize the risk factors. For example, problems may arise when someone is too perfectionist. Because of this trait, goals are difficult to achieve and that leads to stress.
Another stress factor that can play a role is personal circumstances, be it a traumatic experience or the loss of a family member.
Thirdly, the work situation itself is usually a factor that contributes to a burnout. For example, a poor working atmosphere or an extreme work pressure is disastrous for every employee. Communication also plays an important role. In this way, clarity is created and everyone knows where they stand. To allow communication to go well with an employee when dealing with stress, it is good to show empathy. Understand where certain thoughts and feelings come from and respond to them. In this way a solution will be easier to find.
Know the Types of Absence
There are different types of absences. Believe it or not, there are absence categories:
- Pink absenteeism
- Grey absenteeism
- Black absenteeism
- White absenteeism
Every type of absenteeism requires a different approach. The one type of default is completely legitimate. The other kind of absenteeism can be tackled fairly directly because an employee runs the risk. When you want to focus on stress prevention, these types of absenteeism definitely deserve attention!
The Manager’s Attitude
The only way to reduce the stress level of employees is to deal with stress factors. The manager again plays a key role in this. It is important to support employees by being inspiring and involved. A too authoritarian, withdrawn and directive approach is counter-productive. It is important for managers to create a ‘burnout preventive’ attitude for themselves by being open, communicating well and giving appreciation. Moreover, signs of an upcoming burnout must be recognised and taken seriously. For example, the lack of energy, chronic over-fatigue and irritability is a possible precursor to a burnout. A manager is well advised to be involved with his employees so that signals can be noticed in good time. It is also important to help employees to develop themselves personally.
Identify sSress and Make it Negotiable
Although it can be difficult for an employee to be held accountable for the amount of stress he experiences, you ultimately do him a favor. In this way, the problem can be addressed. It is important to converse rather than presume, each individual is different and thus causes of stress vary from person to person as well as each individuals approach to coping. Making stress negotiable has the advantage that more insight is obtained into the way an employee deals with stress and it will facilitate the approach.
Since stress is a sensitive issue, it is important to choose the right time to speak to an employee. Do not do this when someone has had a bad experience or when having a bad day. A manager also does well to conduct this type of conversation in private. Choosing the right time to speak to an employee can be tricky, as there never seems to be a good moment for these types of conversation. Try to make time for the discussion with your employee and prepare yourself well for the conversation. It is important to be attentive yet firm, to keep the conversation short meanwhile offering a listening ear. A supervisor could choose to conduct this conversation in a safe environment, for example, during a walk, if not away from work at least within the privacy of an office.
Make stress not only negotiable on an individual level, but also within the team itself. Discuss the causes of stress, which signals can occur and then what needs to be done when these signals are detected.
Create a Workplace That is Enjoyable to be In
What could be better than having your employees happily arrive at work because of the satisfaction they get from their work? It is idyllic is it not, therefore, create a safe environment within your company. An environment where they can be themselves, where they feel comfortable to discuss their problems. What can you do when an employee indicates that he is overloaded? Is it feasible to reduce the workload temporarily? Talk to your employees, try to identify the causes of stress and be open to suggestions that are being made. By recognizing and acknowledging signals at an early stage, you will be able to prevent a lot of stress in your company. And thus, you can ultimately prevent absence from increasing, avoid your employees from suffering and save money! It is a no brainer.
Also, consider the small things that make work life more pleasant. For example, some small interventions can already ensure that employees feel more relaxed at work.
Recognize Different Behavioral Styles of Employees
In order to provide employees with the right support, it is important to be able to recognize certain behavioral styles. For example, there are support colleagues who like to deliver quality and other colleagues also help with this. These colleagues generally like to work together in teams and understand business. There are employees who also have a controlling style. They like to achieve concrete results and are quite competitive. Deadlines are usually not a problem for them. The conservative colleague is analytical and systematic. Risks are avoided as much as possible and all activities are approached methodically. The compelling colleague is in good contact with other colleagues. They are real team players who like to see new developments.
Because a team generally consists of different types, working together, can be a challenge. Conflicts can lie in wait and cause unnecessary stress. A manager can lead a team in the right direction by making this negotiable. Help individuals listen to colleagues and respond to each other’s needs. In addition, make stress negotiable by discussing possible complaints. This way, colleagues will also be able to approach each other more easily when they recognize the symptoms.
Adjust Management Style to Suit the Employee
As a manager, you do well to adjust your management style per employee. Every team knows its individuals and no human being is the same. You can, therefore, say that every employee needs his / her own approach. Numerous tests have been devised to show which employee chooses which approach. Yet common sense is an important indicator. As a manager, you can observe to see what an employee might need. A number of tools for a:
- Perfectionist employee
- Easily-distracted employee
- An employee who requires a lot of attention
- Competitive employee
- Multitasking employee
- Over-employed employee
- Uncertain employee
- Non-assertive employee
Deepen Yourself in the Possibilities to Reduce Absences
As a manager, you must be careful not to blind yourself to the possibilities that are available to reduce absences. Stress is an important factor in absence from work. So, broaden your horizon where it is about reducing it. Do not just limit yourself to stress, but also focus on issues such as work happiness, efficiency, and inspiration. Do not shy away from deeper meanings. Think of the reason for our existence and know what you need as a person.
Learn to Recognize Stress
For example, stress can lead to physical problems such as fatigue, headaches, back pain and stomach complaints. On the other hand, it can lead to emotional issues, feelings of worthlessness, restlessness, and irritability. Stress can also lead to mental complaints, including poor concentration, bad memory and indecisiveness. All of this can lead to behavioral changes whereby a colleague avoids teammates, complains more and calls in sick more often. Remember that employees with different behavioral styles can respond to stress in different ways. That is why it is important to keep the eyes open and do not be closed minded.
Society does not stand still and undergoes continuous change. However, the corporate culture is often lagging behind, which makes burnouts a big risk. It is therefore time for cultural change at work. This is of course not an easy task. You do not make a change of culture, and within a week feel like a completely new organization. However, the enormous costs of high absence levels mean that as a company you have to make strategic choices in order to keep employees healthy and at work.
Especially when there is a lot of cooperation in teams, it is important that communication is positive and up-building. Good communication is essential for a good relationship between managers and employees. It motivates employees when they are aware of the course of their work and what is going on within the company. Therefore, for example, arrange one-on-one meetings, team meetings, and a monthly internal newsletter. In this way, employees will feel involved and enjoy their work more if they realize that their work is an important part of the bigger picture. Positive communication helps to reduce loneliness. Loneliness and social recognition is extremely important in stress prevention among employees. Teamwork and good communication are the solutions for this.
Communication is the key, it is a fact that can not be emphasized enough. It sounds so logical, but in practice, there are few companies that manage to maintain this well. It is important to give communication priority to enable a company to develop properly.
Work Process-oriented Instead of Goal-oriented
‘It is not the destination, but the way to it’. It sounds philosophical, but in practice, there is certainly a core of truth, certainly for companies. If one wants to achieve goals too quickly, mediocre results are often the outcome. A slightly longer road can lead to a better result and there will be less stress on the road. There is time for analysis, possible changes and there is room to breathe.
Focus on Vitality
A vital employee is lively and enjoys his work. When the vitality falls, this is a clear alarm bell. Stress can be the cause here and it is important to start the conversation. Communication is important again. Be open as a manager and discuss your care for the employee. The goal is to keep all employees well informed. Although this can be difficult because stress can also result from a private situation, it is important to pay attention to the problem. Employees who are vital will be more efficient and contribute to a good atmosphere in the workplace. It takes some effort, but the results are well worth it.
Deepen in Sustainable Employ-ability
Sustainable employability has become a container concept. There are dozens of tips on the internet that show how you can increase sustainable employ-ability. In general, this means that the consequence of sustainable employ-ability is that employees are not so likely to be ill or illness happens less often. Nevertheless, the approach differs per company. A law firm will have to have a completely different approach than a company that specializes in landscaping. When you, therefore, go deeper into sustainable employ-ability, see which interventions you can use that suit your company and employees.
Change can sometimes be difficult to accept for employees. That is why it is important that the course of employees is considered normal. On the other hand, there should not be as much progress as the team spirit leads. There must be a possibility to establish a good cooperation. It is important for a manager to find a balance in mobility.
Managers Must Lead by Example
In addition to all the above factors that influence the motivation of your employees, you yourself as a manager are also an important factor. You have a big influence on the employees. If you are enthusiastic about the work, your employees will be too. If you are motivated, your employees will also be motivated etc. Your dynamism, charisma and drive determine the working atmosphere. As a manager, give the example and your example will be followed. Ultimately, you can’t enforce motivation. You cannot force anyone to be motivated. Every employee will have to motivate himself to some extent. But as we have seen in this article, there are important factors that influence the motivation of your employees.
It is important that you as a manager know your employees well, so that you know whether everyone is in the right place. Then have confidence in your employees and give them responsibilities. If they do their job well, make an effort to let them know and reward the extra work. In addition, it is important that there is room for personal growth and through clear communication, employees will feel involved. Finally, take the lead, be motivated and enthusiastic about your work.
Who are we?
Milltain supports, with a team of experienced trainers, organizations in the prevention of stress and the (re) finding of work happiness in the workplace. Our training courses are aimed at managers within companies. A burnout quickly costs the organization € 70,000.
In addition to financial suffering, human suffering is great. Not only for the employee but also for close colleagues who have to deal with the blows. Before you know it you are in a negative vicious circle.