A study by Colonial Life found that 41% of survey respondents said they were less productive at work because of stress.
High-pressure work environments can seem like the norm in this age of hustle culture. But they can lead to employee disengagement, low productivity, high turnover, and a toxic workplace.
There are other sources of workplace stress too. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to recognize and address overwhelmed or stressed employees.
To help you, we gathered four tips from PI’s senior leaders:
1. Understand your employees’ behavioral needs.
Get to know your employees’ behavioral needs and drives through tools like behavioral assessments. This can help you tailor your conversations and come up with solutions that align with the person’s needs.
PI President, Daniel Muzquiz, learned this the hard way. He kept adding pressure to an employee who had a high need to take his time to do his best work. The added stress impeded productivity and also tore down the psychological safety in their relationship. While Muzquiz was able to rebuild trust with this employee, it took a lot of time and effort. Now, Muzquiz makes sure to look at people’s behavioral profiles before entering important meetings so he can personalize his coaching methods.
If you’re a remote leader—or you manage remote employees—understanding individual needs is crucial to your team’s success. PI SVP of Operations, Maribel Olvera, is partially remote. She uses behavioral profiles to identify potential strains before they hit:
“As a remote manager, you miss a lot of the physical time with your employees—and a lot of the physical cues of stress. So you have to deeply understand their needs and be proactive about how certain types of work will affect them,” Olvera said. If you see that a project will cause an employee to constantly stretch themselves, bring this up with them early on and develop a system for them to recharge.
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2. Interact often and pay attention.
When you’re managing multiple people, you might know what projects your team is working on, but it’s hard to keep in touch with how the work is impacting the individual.
To get a clearer picture, establish consistent opportunities for people to bring up concerns. At PI, teams hold daily stand-ups and recurring manager/employee 1:1s to discuss upcoming projects, potential roadblocks, and personal updates either in-person or via video chat. These brief meetings allow you to keep a pulse on your team’s priorities and workload, while also creating a space for employees to air any concerns.
Some employees might not be as open to sharing their burdens. In these cases, Muzquiz recommends leaders spend time digging deeper; listen for what employees are really saying and pay attention to body language:
“I once asked someone how they were doing and they gave a canned, generic answer. So I stopped and reasked the question. The person opened up about their stress regarding an upcoming presentation and ended up asking for help preparing,” Muzquiz said.
3. Show you care with action.
Helping employees manage stress effectively goes beyond just asking the right questions. It also requires follow-through with actions that show that you value their well-being.
When a member of the team is overloaded, Olvera will sit down with that person to help them prioritize their work. She follows these steps as a de-stressing system:
- List out everything on their to-do list.
- Clarify their main job responsibilities and KPIs.
- Map the tasks into an Eisenhower box.
- Empower them to push back on projects outside of their core responsibilities and offer support if needed.
“Managing stress is easier when employees have clear visibility into what they have to work on,” Olvera said.
Taking action to help relieve stress also involves being flexible. PI VP of People Operations, Jackie Dube, saw that one of her employees was disengaging because they were dealing with a lot of personal stress:
“I told them to take the rest of the week off to take care of what they need to so they could come back on Monday refreshed,” Dube said.
4. Set an example.
As the team’s leader, your employees look to you to set the standard. Communicate that you think rest is important by taking breaks yourself. Work remotely sometimes if you’re trying to build a company where people feel comfortable to follow suit.
Muzquiz tells people that he makes it home for dinner almost every night, and uses the office massage chair to show it’s okay to do.
Dube makes sure to take vacation days and makes use of flexible work hours so her team feels comfortable doing the same.
It’s worth your time.
Even your top performers will burn out if they’re constantly under pressure. And if environmental pressures are at play, your employees might need a little extra support and care. Every employee deals with stress differently, so be flexible with your methods. In the long haul, these efforts will help the team stay engaged and productive.