What should I do if one of my staff members seems to be suffering from stress?
When a staff member seems out of sorts and you think they could be struggling to cope with stress, it can be difficult to know what to say. However, it is best not to ignore the situation as stress can snowball to more serious health issues.
Stress affects everyone differently, but there are a number of common signs. These include headaches, upset stomachs, difficulty performing usual work tasks, irritability and tearfulness.
Ongoing stress without support can lead to burnout or contribute to mental illness such as depression or anxiety. Mental health problems are common in the workplace, with about one in six people affected at any given time.
How to help
There are a number of things an employer can do to support a staff member affected by stress and other mental illnesses:
- Time pressures: Check to see if you’ve set unreasonable and unrealistic demands on your employees’ time. If you relieve them of a few burdens, it’ll free up their headspace to be more calm and controlled. It could be that you’ve got people in your team who can’t say ‘no’, and so their workload keeps piling up.
- Relinquish control: People get stressed when they feel they’ve got little influence over their work. Be flexible in how you let your employees do their job. Give them the latitude to use their strengths and talents to give you the result you want without you dictating or micro-managing every step of the way.
- Manage change: Employers are very good at implementing change, such as a new computer system or a new process. What they’re not so mindful of is engaging their employees during the change so that they embrace it. Getting your employees on side before the change occurs is as important as the change itself.
- Conflict: Look out for personality clashes between your employees. In more extreme cases, be wary of bullying or harassment. People affected by these factors rarely speak out. Don’t ignore disagreements; they hardly take care of themselves, so be an immediate mediator where troubles are sorted, not shunned.
- Ramp up support: Be understanding of the challenges facing your employees when they’re stressed. Provide them with training on stress management and ensure they’ve got the resources they need to do their work. When eventually they’re back to normal, they’ll stay loyal towards a boss that cared.
- Your personal stress levels: Many employers don’t realise the influence they have over their employees. What you say and do determines whether your employees are happy or sad, thankful or mad. If you’re highly strung, you’ll have a team of employees who will be on-edge. You might be the source of their stress.
- Uncover problems: Be vigilant with getting feedback from your employees to understand how they’re feeling. Talk to them, ask sincere questions about what they like and dislike about their job, and listen to what they say. Once you’re aware of the underlying issues, dealing with them straight away builds trust.