The lines between work and life are so blurred that many employees are confused about how to live a richer, fuller life where stress is minimized and we flourish inside and outside the office. Do we aim for "work-life balance" where all of life's buckets get a little dollop of time here and there? Or do we instead push for a non-stop stream of work-play-rest-repeat where our phones ping all day, but we're at the dinner table on time with our families, so it's a "win-win" for everyone?
Maybe not. As an alternative, perhaps we need to follow Josh Bersin's lead to "meet people where they are and equip them with what they need, real time, when they need it." A solution has never been more necessary. Employees are overwhelmed and slog through their days lurching from task to task and meeting to meeting. Technology that was supposed to help us be more productive has instead made us beholden to a constant stream of emails, texts and notifications. Chronic stress is rampant in the workplace which can lead to hypertension, digestive troubles, heart problems and aches and pains. Stress is also linked to higher rates of depression, anxiety and insomnia.
Help employees decrease stress while on the job
Does your talent development strategy jump at the chance to observe employee well-being in addition to performance? If so, consider this powerful combination that can be done with informal check-ins and conversations as well as more formal engagement surveys. By using regular one-on-one conversations to check-in and check-out, employees can identify stressors and managers can come up with an effective plan for managing these trouble spots.
Real-world strategy: Managers, before plowing ahead to work and assignments, use a few minutes of the one-on-one meeting to ask the employee what's happening in their lives personally. Ask questions such as: How are you feeling? Is there anything that might distract you during our conversation? How are you feeling after our talk?
Give them time to think and learn
Real-world strategy: Let your team know that exploring micro-learning or e-learning courses is expected. Carve out time for learning activities, such as a lunch and learn with a colleague from another department or a dedicated block to catch up on industry blog posts and videos. Encourage employees to explore your learning management system or career development technology tools to identify skill gaps and find recommended training courses so they can proactively reach their goals and advance their career.
Model the work-life balance yourself
If your managers and leaders are sending emails on vacation and Skyping into meetings from the beach, then the message is loud and clear to their direct reports: even PTO is a time for work. Employees are listening and looking to senior leaders for guidance.
So, if you want less stress on your team, model a life that has balance. Don't be the last person out of the door each night to prove some outdated idea of "loyalty." Make sure your employees do the same thing.
With more than 60 percent of U.S. employees reporting they felt stressed three or more work days per week, the impact of stress in the workplace takes a toll that is counted in worker burnout and lost productivity.
Real-world strategy: Set boundaries with your team. One rule could be no email after 8pm in the evenings and none on weekends. Make sure you follow this rule as well!
Stress is difficult and ever-present, and we all feel its effects. But less-stressed employees are healthier, more productive and more likely to stay with the company. By spending time and effort to nurture a healthy workplace, everyone will breathe easier. Here's to meeting employees where they are with what they need and laying the groundwork for a more productive future!
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