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How Managers Can Help Employees Manage Stress

Let's face it: Work can be demanding, complicated, and stressful. And when employees get stressed, morale and productivity take a nose dive, while employee burnout and turnover shoot upward.

And these days, uncertainty and stress are on the rise. According to Harvard Business Review, 42 percent of employees have experienced a mental health decline over the past year.

Man clicking virtual on-screen Reduce Stress button.

But managing your own stress as a manager is tough enough. How can you help employees reduce their stress, too?

These tips will help you support your employees as they navigate uncertain times.

Check In Regularly

With so many employees working remotely, regular check-ins are more important than ever. When you're not meeting face to face, it can be difficult to tell if an employee is struggling... so ask them.

But don't stop at "how are you doing?" Think of specific questions that will help reveal what an employee really needs. For instance, you may ask if the employee has discovered any effective coping strategies, and supplement those with work-related resources.

Most importantly, really listen to employees' answers. Focus on what support you, as a manager, can provide during this time to ensure that they can perform to the best of their ability.

Encourage Self Care

All too often, stress creeps up, building slowly over time until an employee is left with a tension headache and a knot in their stomach. Help employees recognize the signs so they can nip stress in the bud.

One way is through encouraging self care and providing opportunities for employees to manage stress. These may include:

  • Encouraging workers to take regular breaks
  • Offering stress-management training or webinars
  • Setting up yoga or meditation sessions
  • Offering incentives for regular exercise
  • Making it easy for employees to use their time off
  • Setting a good example by modeling these behaviors yourself

Provide Feedback

When employees don't have a clear picture of their job performance, this leads to anxiety even if they're performing well. As a leader, regular communication lets employees know where they stand.

Providing regular performance reviews that include encouragement, involve employees in the review process, and clearly define expectations removes uncertainty. In between, keeping the lines of communication open helps relieve anxiety and lets employees know exactly what they should focus on.

Practice Flexibility

In times marked by uncertainty, remember that employees may be experiencing unprecedented change in their own lives. For instance, workers with children may be managing virtual school. Many employees may be worried about a family member with compromised health.

When you can, take a flexible approach. Perhaps employees can work odd hours, or take a longer lunch break in the middle of the day. Model patience and understanding with your team, and keep communicating. If an employee feels comfortable telling you what they need, you can help them be more productive.

Being a manager is challenging during normal times. During times of uncertainty, dealing with employee stress can pose an even greater challenge. By remaining flexible, keeping the lines of communication open, and practicing self-care, managers can help their employees make it through difficult times.

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