Tackling business stress in the workplace

2011-10-11 00:00

BUSINESS stress is a rather fancy phrase that has become part of our daily discussion as we either know of someone who is stressed or we find ourselves experiencing the symptoms of stress.

Tackling work-related stress is essential to ensure the wellbeing of both ourselves and our employees, and to safeguard the performance of our businesses. Stress can be damaging for owner-managers, the self-employed and employees. Excessive demands can reduce your productivity and make it more difficult to take important decisions. Stress can also undermine employees’ effectiveness, cause a rise in sickness absences and increase staff turnover. You have a responsibility to ensure that your employees don’t become ill — physically or mentally — because of work-related stress.

It is vital to be able to identify and tackle possible causes of stress in your business, from excessive workloads and communication problems to insufficient training and poor management. The costs of neglecting stress in your business can be high. A stressed manager may find it difficult to create a positive working environment and monitor stress levels in others. It’s also important to tackle any stress you face as an owner-manager or self-employed person. This is often caused by working excessively long hours or from a feeling of isolation.

Some typical stress inducers are:

• excessively high workloads and unrealistic deadlines;

• insufficient workloads, making people­ feel that their skills are being underused;

• a lack of control over work activities;

• a lack of interpersonal support;

• being asked to do a job for which employees have insufficient training;

• difficulty settling into a new promotion, both in terms of meeting the new requirements and adapting;

• concerns about job security, lack of career opportunities, or level of pay;

• bullying or harassment;

• a blame culture within your business.

• weak or ineffective management which leaves employees feeling they don’t have a sense of direction;

• multiple reporting lines for employees, with each manager asking for his or her work to be prioritised;

• failure to keep employees informed about significant changes;

• a poor physical working environment; and

• conflict at work.

It would appear that we need to wrap not only ourselves but our employees in cotton wool, as this would appear to be the safest way to eliminate stress in our businesses. But the theory and the practicality of business life is far different and therefore my recommendation to eliminate stress is to be aware that it exists.

Knowing that stress is evident is not enough as an employer and an employee both need to ensure that there is an open channel of communication. This will curb some of negatives as mentioned above. After all, it’s not what you know, but what you do with what you know.

Yvonne Reece is the CEO of lifestyle accounting firm Graemor.

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