Many business leaders enter the new year armed with a renewed sense of optimism and a set of aggressive goals for the months ahead. But aggressive sales goals and high employee expectations can cause workplace stress levels to rise. The sudden increase of anxiety can have serious negative impacts. Employee engagement might diminish, resulting in lost productivity, increased absenteeism and even illness.
January and February are an ideal time to put strategies in place to help employees deal with stress. With the right plan in place, company leadership can help workers stay focused and manage anxiety levels. In turn, this helps employers start the new year successfully.
Offer small rewards
To encourage productivity and healthy competition, companies should consider offering rewards or perks for meeting year-end goals. While sharing profits when earnings reach higher than predicted levels is always nice, perks don’t have to be large financial bonuses. They can be as simple as free food, extra time off, or fun company retreats. Tickets to movies or sporting events, spa services, or online magazine subscriptions are other options. Many of these types of rewards are affordable, even in a very small organization. But they are a way to acknowledge employee contributions to the success of the organization and can help relieve the new year’s stress.
Another way to reduce anxiety is to set realistic and achievable deadlines so employees know what to focus. Managers can help employees by giving them the big picture and identifying the most important tasks. A prioritized schedule can provide a sense of balance, predictability, security and stability.
The power of positive thinking is important to keep in mind when it comes to motivating a workforce. When managers take a few minutes to let employees know their work is appreciated, it boosts morale. Face-to-face praise is always best. However, an unexpected phone call or handwritten note with words of encouragement can also remind employees of their value to the organization and often makes a positive, lasting impression.
Maintain an open-door policy
In addition to identifying good work and calling it out, supervisors should also make a point of talking with their staff on a regular basis and making themselves available as much as possible. This is especially important when an employee is showing visible signs of stress or burnout and may need someone to speak with. Of course, managers are encouraged to proactively approach workers when signs of high anxiety are present.
A lot of jobs involve staring at a computer screen all day, and this can wear anyone down. By encouraging employees to move – a walk during lunch or a trip to the break room – they can return to work feeling relaxed and refreshed. Even a two minute stretch and quick gaze out of a window can reset the mind and reduce stress levels.
Helping employees manage stress is an increasingly crucial role for businesses. When implemented well, it can result in higher morale and improved productivity, and in turn, business growth. Happier, healthier employees will be better positioned to deliver positive results early in the new year when demands are high. They are also more likely to stay with the company when new opportunities arise.
Eric Bonugli is a district manager and Kay Oder is a Certified Business Performance Advisor for Insperity. They are located in the company’s Austin office.