Excerpted from Stress and Safety by David Lee, published by MEMIC
Many managers and business owners mistakenly fear that reducing employee stress requires reducing productivity or creating a "country club" atmosphere, which in today's marketplace could be fatal. Nothing could be further from the truth; in fact, the opposite is true.
When organizations manage in ways that bring out the best in people, they also reduce employee stress. That's why most of Fortune magazine's "100 Best Companies to Work For" are industry leaders and enjoy high employee productivity. Employees in these companies are both happy and extremely productive.
The key to maximizing productivity while minimizing stress is understanding the factors that influence whether someone working very hard will feel stressed out and burnt out, or whether they will feel motivated, excited, and committed. Scientific research on stress, combined with best practices of high performance companies offers clear clues about the key factors that determine whether employees will be stressed out or energized by workplace demands.
To Maximize Employee Productivity And Performance, Organizations Can:
Give Employees As Much Control Over Their Jobs As Possible - Research shows that control is the biggest factor in whether people feel stressed out or invigorated when facing a challenge. The more control people have over their work, the greater their job satisfaction, the higher their work quality, and the lower their stress level. Giving employees control includes giving them the power to make job-related decisions, the flexibility to organize their work in the way they find optimal, and the authority to find make improvements on how their job is done. Making this work requires providing employees with the training, coaching, and information they need to make intelligent decisions.
Communicate Clearly and Often About Everything Important - One of the greatest sources of employee stress is not knowing - not knowing about changes taking place in the company, not knowing their supervisor's job and performance expectations, and not knowing if they are doing a good job. Communicating clearly in these areas not only reduces employee stress, it also helps them do a far better job.
Talk With Your Employees About What Makes Your Company Great, How You Bring Value To Your Customers, and How Your Employees Make That Possible- People want to feel part of something great, and they want to feel that they are making a significant contribution to that greatness. When they feel this way, they not only become energized by challenges, they're also more able to endure difficulties without becoming burnt out. You can put this principle into action by making sure you always deliver a high quality product or service, by talking with employees about the value your company provides to your customers, and explaining how them doing high quality work makes it all possible.
Make Sure Supervisors Know How to Bring Out the Best in People- Supervisors play a huge role in employee morale, performance, and stress level. Supervisors who know how to provide guidance, support, and encouragement minimize employee stress. Supervisors with poor management skills or with personal problems, not only can't help employees deal with stressful times, they themselves are a tremendous source of stress. The time and financial resources you invest in selecting and training managers will pay huge dividends in reducing employee stress, increasing productivity, and minimizing turnover.
Encourage Employees to Talk Freely and Support One Another -An "all work and no play" environment burns out people quickly. Having a workplace where co-workers can talk without worrying about getting into trouble, is especially important in high pressure jobs. Encouraging connections among co-workers also reduces stress ,because having social support reduces the negative effects of stressful situations. According to a large body of scientific research, having supportive friends and family members is one of the most important factors influencing a person's ability to handle stress and major life crises without becoming physically or emotionally compromised.
Help Employees Design Their Jobs To Be As Rewarding As Possible - Although not all jobs are equally rewarding and fulfilling, much can be done to make even the least desirable ones more enjoyable. The more opportunity employees have to make decisions, use their mind, and take responsibility, the more fulfilled they will be. To make this work, employees need to be involved in the job enrichment process. If changes are made without their input, this will most likely backfire. If employees have worked for years in an environment where they were told what to do, it might take time for them to learn how to take a more responsible and active approach to their jobs.
Improve Your Hiring and Orientation Process - Because the first few months on the job are often the most stressful, new employees are often the most vulnerable to accidents and injuries. For companies that have a "sink or swim" approach to new employees, these first few months are also a time of high turnover. The more effective your hiring, new hire orientation, and training is, the more likely new employees will be well-suited, and prepared, for their jobs.
Make Sure Employees Have the Resources and Training to Do Their Jobs Well - When people feel inadequate, when they feel ill-equipped to handle a challenge, they get stressed out. If employees don't have the tools, technology, time, staff, or training to do their job's well, they are going to be stressed out, and won't be able to work at their true potential. Investing in these areas pays huge dividends both in terms of reduced stress-related costs, and in increased productivity.
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Author: David Lee is a consultant, speaker, and executive coach.
The founder of HumanNature@Work, he has worked with
organizations and presented at conferences throughout
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