Recently, we had posted a discussion in all Workplace, Productivity, HR and Leadership groups on LinkedIn about stress in the workplace. The discussion was about how a demand for higher productivity from employees is sending the workforce’s stress levels shooting through the roof. The question was what can HR and leadership do to alleviate this problem? Needless to say, we got an overwhelming response and it seemed like a good idea to collate these responses and offer them as a repository which people concerned with this issue could access.
While going through the responses we saw a general consensus among these professionals. Almost all agreed that stress was one of the highest productivity killers at work. They agreed that workplace stress led to absenteeism, tardiness, burnout and increased employee turnover. However, while we do agree that stress is bad, we also believe that an expectation of zero stress in the complex business environment of today is Utopian. So the question is how much stress is too much and what can be done to make this stress manageable?
Stress is nothing but a result of one’s ignorance in regards to manage his or her own system. Stress takes over employee wellness and productivity when the employee is not equipped with the right tools to determine his workload to manage it efficiently. The general consensus was also that stress is not the prerogative of the employee alone. While employees need to learn to manage stress employers too need to do their bit to ensure the wellbeing of their workforce to have happier, more engaged and productive employees. So how can organizations help employees beat the stress without beating productivity?
- Build a sustainable environment through Mindfulness Practice – Business leaders need to take ownership and build a sustainable work environment by incorporating the mindfulness practice at work and ingraining it into their corporate culture. Mindfulness is all about being in the present, focusing on the task at hand and increasing engagement by fazing out the chaos. Mindfulness practice leads to improved decision-making by increasing the awareness required to fulfill workplace responsibilities and enabling employees to focus on the ‘NOW’ not the ‘NEXT’
- Provide more control over work – In today’s dynamic work environment, technology can be a great tool to empower employees to perform their tasks better by providing them more control by allowing flexible work arrangements. Shifting the focus to ‘time on work’ rather than ‘time at work‘ and providing proper guidance will help employees achieve work-life balance and make them more productive. Managers too, have to be provided with the right tools to monitor the progress of this remote workforce, ensure correct work allocation, give real –time feedback and ensure timely execution of projects thus making sure that work gets done but without the stress.
- Provide tools for self-quantification -What can be measured can be managed. Encouraging employees to use self-quantification to achieve their personal goals will have a direct and more positive productivity impact without all the stress. Through self-quantification, employees can identify their individual productivity patterns and effectively schedule tasks based on their peak productivity hours. Self-quantification tools can also help the workforce and their managers identify and measure activities that induce stress and thus help us take measurable steps to manage it.
- Define workload metrics – High quality standards, deadlines, targets are all a reality of today’s workplace environment, making stress a constant. What organizations need to do is ensure that the stress employees feel is positive stress. Positive stress motivates an employee to do better, increases energy and builds excitement – all of these foster productivity. Having defined workload metrics driven by effort analytics can help the organization proactively monitor employee workloads, set manageable goals, provide real time feedback and ensure effective resource allocation. All of these help the employees become more engaged at work while keeping stress at bay.
That there will be some kind of stress, personal or professional, plaguing us at some point or the other is a given. What we need to ensure is that the stress doesn’t take control of our lives and prevent us from achieving our full potential. We can’t achieve this by looking for a quick fix. Instead, doing a root-cause analysis armed with the right data can help in getting to the root of the problem for a permanent fix.
Download the responses here