Every environment, be that work or home, can get stressful at times. The difference between work and home is that responsibilities are markedly different at work. When I’m at home, how stressful my environment becomes is a factor of the the choices that I make. It is largely my responsibility.
Once you start to employ people in the workplace a larger responsibility rests with you, the employer or manager. That is not to say that it is your responsibility to provide a stressless environment. In fact many pieces of research show that we all need a healthy amount of stress to feel alive and to improve our performance. Where your responsibility lies, as the employer, is to make sure the environment your create is not overly stressful.
Providing you are maintaining that commitment then, in my opinion, the responsibility for managing my stress levels and taking care of myself rests with me, the employee.
That said, it is impossible for you, the boss, to completely control supply, demand, illness ….customers…… and all the variables that go into running your business. There will be times when there is less stress and others when there is more. Sometimes there will be a peak of stress.
The following tips are there for you to think about and are best if they are in place continually rather than simply for when things go pear shaped.
Train First Responders
The more people in your business that are aware of stress, aware of simple interventions that they can make and can respond quickly when they see someone else displaying signs of stress the better. We call these people First Responders.
You are not building an expectation of having highly trained experts in the workplace constantly keeping an eye out in the same way that a swimming pool may have a life guard whose sole role is safety. It is possible though, to have workers with simple basic training in spotting signs, having conversations and directing people to appropriate qualified professionals to get help. As is so often the case, simply having people there who can have brief supportive conversations solves a lot of issues.
The problem with stress is the stigma that we associate with it when we are suffering its effects. While stress is the barely acceptable face of mental health challenges it still has stigma written through it like a stick of rock.
The only way that we are going to remove that stigma is to encourage conversations about our emotional health in the same way as we would our physical health. We all have physical health, whatever that may mean to each of us and talking about it is easy enough.
By the same measure we all have mental health. That’s just what it is. Mental health which at times may be tip top and others may be challenged. The sooner we open up and talk about it the sooner part of its pernicious power will fade. Half of the issue is the shame caused by the stigma. Remove that and it just becomes a thing and you know what? Things are to be dealt with and can be dealt with however long they may take.
So get those conversations going and the best way is to open up yourself…..more oin role modelling later.
If the environment is stressful then sometimes what we need is somewhere we can go to gather our thoughts and where we will not be followed and hassled.
There is another layer to the safe space. This is the statement that someone makes by providing one and the statement that someone makes by using it. By providing one you show a physical investment in mental health. By team members using it they show commitment to their mental health.
The companies that have embraced these have introduced them as a quiet zone, a place to reflect and a place to retreat to. They are a normal part of an organisation’s healthy coping mechanisms and they are set up and discussed as such. There is no stigma in taking care of yourself.
To re quote a much quoted phrase “self care is not selfish.”
Never underestimate the power of leadership role modelling. If you want to observe it just look at your leaders and see if they walk the talk and then observe the culture that your team has.
If your leaders are talking about healthy balance between work and home and then acting in the opposite way you will see a culture that is not just confused but actually one of mistrust.
If you want your teams to be healthy then you need to be healthy. If you want them to develop healthy coping mechanisms with stress then you need to role model those.
Lead and they will follow.
So there you have it, four simple ways of encouraging and helping your teams deal with stressful environments. I say they are simple. That does not mean they are easy, and as with so many behavioural changing initiatives they require investment in time and consistent reinforcement.
This article is deliberately short of detail. I am sure you are perfectly capable of taking these ideas and running with them. If, however, you feel you need a little more detail then get our numbers from the website and give us a call. We love talking to organisations who are interested in being proactive around mental health.