Hi there! How are you today? No, don’t just say “fine” without thinking. How are you really? Might you be just a little bit stressed? Or even a lot stressed?
Government figures show that in 2016-17, over half a million workers in the UK were suffering from work-related stress, depression and anxiety. This caused 12.5 million working days to be lost. Which means stress doesn’t just suck for the people who are feeling it but for the companies they work for too.
So is there anything that can be done? Of course there is! If you run a business – or a team within a business – you’re in a unique position to change the culture and reduce stress in the workplace. Which makes you something of a superhero really.
Here are a few ideas to get you started…
1) Think flexi
Chaining your team to their desks from 9am to 5pm really isn’t the ideal way to get the most out of them. Some people are early birds who will be much more effective on an 8-4 arrangement. Others will be happier if they can squash their weekly hours into four days so they can have Fridays off. Still others will be far more productive if they can work from home. Flexible working can seriously reduce people’s stress levels, so ask your team about what might suit them. Even the fact that you’re asking will help them feel like they’re being looked after.
2) Get people moving
Physical exercise is one of the best ways to reduce stress levels. Even something as simple as a walk at lunchtime can help people clear their heads, get mental space from their inbox and their deadlines, and get those endorphins pumping to raise wellbeing levels. We’re not suggesting you turf them all out in the cold a couple of times a day, but why not get a lunchtime walk club started, or sponsor their gym passes?
3) Have an open door policy
Here’s a little pop quiz for you. If someone in your team is stressed, are they likely to:
A: Come and talk to you about it
B: Moan to their other half about stressful work is
C: Pour a stiff G&T (or three)
D: Do nothing and carry on regardless
If the answer isn’t A, you need to do something about it. You can’t fix problems you don’t know about, right? People need to know they can talk to you about their stress levels without it impacting their status in the business.
4) Get your filing system sorted
Seriously, it’s bothering your staff – not to mention kicking their productivity levels down a notch or two and actually costing you money. Need proof? Research shows that a third of office employees see searching for documents as “difficult” or “frustrating”, with 42% saying it takes up to 15 minutes to find a document or file. Just think about that. If someone were to search for 16 files in the course of the day, they’d have spent half their time in the office doing that!
[Plug time! If you need help creating a filing system that is anything but stressful, get in touch – if we do say so ourselves, we’re really, really good at organising stuff. We can store your physical documents and deliver them back as you need them, or scan them and create a digital archive. Or both. Both is always a good option.]
5) Ban desk lunches
There are so many reasons why eating your lunch while you work is bad for your wellbeing. Firstly, you don’t get a break. Secondly, you don’t get to socialise. Thirdly, you don’t actually get to taste and enjoy your food. Banning desk lunches might seem extreme but it will show your team that you prioritise their wellbeing over the need to get stuff done. Consider creating a break out space in your office where people can eat and chat, or why not organise a weekly event like a bring and share lunch or pizza party?
6) Say thank you
Sometimes we all have to work hard. That in itself doesn’t have to be stressful. If you manage the situation properly then powering through an important project together can actually help your team bond and feel proud as they achieve a big win. But if you don’t encourage them along the way, recognise their efforts and say thank you at the end… well, you probably won’t get the same level of effort next time. Saying thank you is easy. Saying sorry is harder.
7) Lead by example
If you want your kids to eat vegetables and you’re busy scoffing an ice cream, you’re fighting a losing battle. And since leadership is a lot like parenting, the same principle applies in the office. Are you stressed? Are you doing what you can to reduce your stress levels? Remember that old example of putting on your own oxygen mask before you help others. You can’t help your team if you’re stuck at home recovering from a breakdown.
Reducing stress levels will improve your team’s productivity and make your office a nicer place to work. Which is good news for everyone. So think about whether you could implement one of more of these suggestions, then ask your team what else they’d like to see change.