Don't press the panic button on stress this Christmas season

David Price – CEO of Health Assured

November 25 2015

Around this time of year, many employees enter into the periodic cycle of counting down to the eagerly awaited Christmas break. It’s also around this time that businesses start to turn up the volume, increasing the workloads, in order to ensure projects are completed in anticipation for the end of one year and the beginning of another. Late nights and early mornings become a perpetual routine, where one day often blends into another, making employees feel like that they are being subjected to groundhogs day. During this period is it easy for employers and their management teams to overlook the pressure and stress employees face in attempting to achieve the successful completion of current projects, avoiding overspill into the New Year. But how can employers look to manage the next few weeks, preventing an employee meltdown from the weight of impending deadlines? Following these three steps below should see you through to a successful final stretch before the Christmas holidays commence.

1. Acknowledgement

Acceptance that stress is an impeding factor in your organisation is the first step to improving the operational efficiency and team morale within your business. Opting for the easier route of brushing issues under the carpet, will only add fuel to the fire, creating a mountain out of a situation, which at one point would have been a mole hill. Stress is something that can fester over long periods of time, only surfacing when the pressure becomes too much for the employees in question, as they become physically ill or emotionally incapable of performing at a consistent level. Whilst maintaining your awareness of workplace stress is a year round task, employers should acknowledge that there are key times of the year when stress levels will be at their highest, with the lead up to Christmas being one of them.

2. Discover the source of the stress

It might not be the case that an employee’s workload is the root cause of the problem. Could they be struggling with co-worker tensions or disagreements? Do they feel out of loop and isolated within the workplace? Or is the stress based on their life outside the business? Discovering the source is the only way to find a possible resolution to the problem. Dependent on the size of your business and your daily level of activity, this may not always be an easy task, but making the time to do so now will pay off in the long run. Employers and their management teams should continuously engage with and monitor their workforce. Leading from the forefront will provide you with a first-hand account of how your employees operate, gaining insight into team dynamics, including who appears to be excelling and who may be struggling to keep up. This should allow you to make the necessary arrangements to devise an appropriate plan of action.

3. Time for a solution

Stress affects us all in different ways, so finding a method to effectively tackle stress in the workplace may differ dependent on the employee and business resources. First and foremost every organisation should strongly consider implementing an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), which at its core provides an outlet for employees to seek advice and reassurance. This may include a free and confidential telephone advice service for employees, or it could include an internal counselling service. These options are beneficial for employees to discuss any issues they are experiencing in a comfortable and safe environment, with fully trained professionals. If the stress is workload-related, management should look at ensuring that projects are assigned equally amongst staff, whilst making staff feel comfortable in coming forward if they are having difficulties with completing a task. When assigning tasks, it is important to look at individual strengths, leaving less room for error and allowing employees to utilise their skills sets. Finally, encourage employees to communicate with each other. This serves two purposes. Firstly, it enables colleagues to discuss any current projects, helping to find the best way of achieving a favourable end result, whilst also addressing any issues they are facing and how they could possibly solve them. Secondly, It provides a more sociable and enjoyable atmosphere at work, which prevents the workplace from becoming stilted and uninspiring, whilst ultimately helping to deter stress levels from rising.

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