The Role of the Manager in Preventing Stress

Many people would probably say they feel stressed at work from time to time, but while a little stress is motivating, there is a point when stress becomes detrimental to physical and mental health.

A study carried out by the British Heart Foundation found that two out of every five employees say that stress has affected their health to the point where it’s made them smoke more, drink more, eat poorly, and miss out on exercise.

What are the main causes of workplace stress?

  • Long working hours
  • Increasing workload
  • Difficult relationships with managers or co-workers
  • Poor working conditions
  • Lack of support from managers
  • Lack of control over job role

What can a manager do to prevent stress?

If employees are suffering from stress, it not only harms their health, it can harm the business. Employees who are burnt out will be less motivated and productive, and more likely to take time off work. Employers also have a statutory duty of care to look after the heath, safety, and welfare of employees, and if they don’t, they are leaving themselves open to litigation.

Managers can’t eliminate all stress but taking these steps can make the workplace a healthier, happier, and more productive place to be.

Set a good example

Managers play a big part in establishing a workplace culture, so if they work late every day and don’t take a proper lunch break, employees are likely to follow suit. Managers should actively promote a healthy work/life balance by taking breaks, using their holidays, and not working excessively long hours.

Encourage employees to take breaks

The law says that employees are allowed to have at least a 20-minute break for every 6 hours they work, and studies show that many people are more productive if they work for 90 minutes then have a 20-minute break. Managers should encourage regular breaks that will work for the business. They could encourage employees to take a short walk after lunch, have short periods of quiet time throughout the day, or have regular check ins with employees over a cup of tea or coffee.

Listen to employees

If employees feel that they can’t express their concerns openly to a manager, this will add to stress. Managers should commit to listening to concerns, suggestions, or complaints without judgment, and they should work with the employee to find a solution.

Build good teams

Employees can be a great source of support to each other, but if a team doesn’t work well together, it can increase overall stress levels in the workplace. Managers should aim to organise team building events regularly to help improve communication and build trust.

Allow for flexibility

While it’s not practical for all businesses, giving employees some flexibility with their working hours and where they work from can help to reduce stress. Many employees have responsibilities at home like caring for children or caring for a sick relative and trying to balance this with a gruelling work schedule can be a big source of stress. Managers can consider allowing employees to work from home regularly or allowing them to work flexible hours to keep stress levels low.

Losing good employees can harm a business in terms of the expenses that come with sick leave, and any litigation claim that might be made if work has contributed to a stress-related illness.

Managers should do everything they can to promote a supportive culture in the workplace and not treat adherence to policies like a tick box exercise. They must make sure that they are trained to recognise stress in the workplace, and that they know how to support employees adequately. Only then will employees be happier, more productive, and less stressed.

Maureen O’Callaghan is a Member of the Chartered Management Institute and has an MSc in Mindfulness-Based Approaches. She works with organisations, teams, and individuals to create less stressful working environments, improve team working, enhance performance and productivity and develop leadership and management skills.  For more information visit http://www.mocallaghan.co.uk or e mail maureen@mocallaghan.co.uk