Stressed, tired and burnt out staff can present a risk and potentially high cost to any business. Not only are they less likely to have great ideas, manage their working relationships well or think outside the box they are more likely to make mistakes, lack motivation and could even damage your relationship with clients and ultimately your reputation.
However, efforts to lower employee stress levels don't have to come at the expense of reduced productivity.Our industry is by nature fast paced and everyone involved knows that working under pressure is just part of the job - but it shouldn't be the norm that your entire workforce is on the point of total burnout.
Learning how to manage stress, which you could likely be suffering from yourself, can be the key to a happier workplace with a content, energised atmosphere and passionate staff who are focused on company success.
Make organisational changes
Before you start focusing on the stress of individuals, it is worth investigating whether the work culture or environment needs to be changed:
- Clear communication – Fear of the unknown can be a substantial cause of work stress. Not just concerns about changes within the company but a lack of clarity about performance expectations. Letting staff know when they are doing a good job is great motivation and will encourage them to keep doing well.
- Give employees more control – Nobody likes to feel like they have a lack of control so letting staff have the opportunity to make job-related decisions and organise their workload in the way they feel is optimal can contribute to job satisfaction. Give team members the opportunity to participate in decisions that affect their jobs and allow them to make improvements on how their job is done.
- Morale boosting incentives – Praising good work should be both verbal and official and schemes such as Employee of the Month can show that individual workers are valued. Let workers know how their contributions are making a difference to the company and that they are part of something great. Providing opportunities for staff to develop their career and improve themselves can also improve motivation.
- Ensure senior team members/leaders are bringing out the best in people – A good manager can help boost morale, motivate staff and improve productivity. A manager without the best people skills can be a considerable source of worker stress. Investing the time and money in the selection and training of good managers will ensure they are able to get the best from employees - and it will help your staff retention rates too.
- Encourage a friendly social climate – Allowing staff to talk without fear of getting into trouble is important.. Encouraging a sense of camaraderie can result in a more resilient workforce. Ensure you establish a zero-tolerance policy for harassment so employees have an emotionally and physically safe working environment.
- Give staff the right tools to do their job well – Few things can increase daily frustration and stress more than facing a mountain of obstacles to climb before they even start their job. Without the right technology, equipment, time, training, support or resources employees will experience a constant feeling of defeat.
Managing personal stress
Spotting the signs of individual/personal stress, addressing the problems and removing them can help lower stress levels and encourage more productive working. Many of us work better under a bit of pressured and get a buzz from it but it is important to spot when the levels are rising and becoming less positive. Here's some tips on how to keep it under control.
- Keep focused - Switching from one thing to another can result in a very unproductive day. Restrict your access to emails or gadgets that could distract you. Prioritise urgent and important tasks and concentrate on one thing at a time. Get all the facts in place before you take action and focus your attention on the task with the most immediate deadline.
- Don't be so hard on yourself – While many of us are supportive to others if they make a mistake, the normal reaction is to beat yourself up if you make one yourself. Putting yourself under unnecessary pressure will only raise your stress levels. Have belief in your own skills, knowledge and experience.
- Don't let emotions take charge – Having strong feelings about a situation can cloud your ability to perform it well. Being particularly anxious about a task doesn't necessarily mean it won't work out as planned. If there is a client or colleague who you clash with, try to remain as professional as possible to diffuse any further conflict.
- Give your brain a break – Overloading your brain without giving yourself 10 minutes to refresh your thoughts can be an effective way to take stock of a situation that could otherwise get on top of you. So if you feel the stress really building and you are struggling to focus - just leave your desk for ten minutes and get some fresh air or at least a change of scenery.
- Take time to have fun – Grab a moment to lift your spirits and remind yourself that you still have a sense of humour. Laughing has plenty of benefits! It also helps break tensions. So the odd light hearted but well timed funny remark/joke can help cool everyone down if things are getting a bit intense.
- Look after yourself – It's so easy to slip into bad habits when working long hours under a lot of pressure. Skipping the gym, eating rubbish or not eating enough and of course, drinking too much will all affect the little sleep you are getting. None of this mixes well with work pressure and can set you on a downward spiral of waking up feeling groggy every day and that is not going to help your productivity. So try to find a way to get a little bit of balance in your day. It will improve your mood and performance and make the tough days that bit easier to handle.
Our final piece of advice is also to remember to talk to someone. When you are a client or candidate, just give us a call. Sometimes it is not easy to speak to colleagues about your problems and friends and family might not have the insights and understanding that we offer. We're always happy to lend a friendly ear and advise where possible. A problem shared etc.
Another source of support is NABS - The National Advertising Benevolent Society.
It is a charity that was set up to help improve the lives of those working in the world of advertising and media. They offer a variety of support services ranging from financial and emotional, networking and events and careers workshops. They also run a Resilience Programme.
This is specifically to help manage stress and they have a series of workshops and events as well as a very useful little guidebook which might be a good place to start.
So always remember no matter how hard work seems to be at the moment, there are ways to help manage stress and the support is out there.