According to an ABS study, 45% of Australians between the ages of 16-85 will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. It is estimated that untreated mental health conditions cost Australian workplaces approximately $10.9 billion per year. This comprises $4.7 billion in absenteeism, $6.1 billion in presenteeism and $146 million in compensation claims.
Our work lives are demanding more from us these days. A certain level of stress is healthy: it can help us rise to a challenge and improve our performance. However, it can also take a negative toll, leading to a drop in performance, poor motivation and absence amongst other things.
As a manager, you can play a key role in stopping the downward slide, and it's easier than you might think.
1. Manage the Demands on Staff
If a job doesn't use the skills someone has, needs skills they don't have or has little variety, there's a danger the level of challenge and stimulation will increase their stress levels. Boredom, lack of skills, too little work and too much work can all increase stress levels. How do you solve this particular problem? Make sure the jobs are designed effectively and you recruit the right people with the right skills, experience and interest to do them.
2. Involve and Empower Staff
Employees who feel they have no say in how the work is done or are excluded from decisions that directly affect them often feel powerless. Involving staff in discussions, encouraging ideas and solutions and giving them a say where possible will go a long way in dealing with the negative emotions.
3. Communicate and Support
Don't forget that effective communication is a two-way process. Ensuring there are channels for staff to raise issues or seek confidential advice in a positive manner will help support early interventions, solving problems before they get big enough to cause real damage.
4. Don't Let Change Just Happen
Change can be one of the most stressful experiences for anyone. Planning, communicating, consulting, encouraging feedback; all this will help people weather the change more effectively, reducing the stress they experience.
5. Give Them Clarity
Employees who have a clear idea of what the organisation's aims are, what their goals are and how that fits into the whole will be better placed to deal with any problems that arise. This should start with the advertisement and run through every activity after that including team meetings and appraisals. There will be less room for confusion, mixed signals and the stressful environment that comes from that.
No one solution will work in isolation, but building these five simple strategies into your daily management practice will help you create a healthier working environment for your staff.