Have you noticed it? Energy levels dropping, enthusiasm waning, the tell-tale signs of burnout making themselves known. Despite the return of ‘normal life’ edging ever closer, some of us are feeling more stressed than ever. Why is that, and what does it mean for your employees?
This year, Stress Awareness Month is even more important
April is Stress Awareness Month - and this year, due to the challenges of COVID-19, the official theme is “Regain Connection, Certainty and Control”. Because after a year of unplanned remote working, furlough and redundancies, and going in and out of lockdown, we’re all facing uncertainty, a lack of control, and disconnection.
With organisations on the cusp of relaxed lockdown laws, this is the most stressful month of the year yet - as it’s time to decide about your workplace next steps.
What are the causes of stress at work?
65% of us have been more stressed due to the pandemic but what’s causing work-related stress specifically? According to the Health & Safety Executive, there’s six main causes - and each is likely to have been exacerbated by coronavirus:
- Control: people may have had no choice about going on furlough, working remotely, or having to continue working in public-facing roles despite health fears
- Support: your employees may need additional support to cope with new wellbeing issues, or continuing to carry out their tasks remotely
- Change: due to being remote and because of the quickly changing situation, your employees may feel out of touch with organisational change
- Relationships: your employees might be struggling to build and maintain relationships with their colleagues, especially if they’ve joined during the pandemic
- Role: those furloughed might worry for their role, and those who haven’t may be struggling with adapting to new tasks they’ve had to take on
- Demands: even though ‘life’ was put on pause, work wasn’t for many - and even keeping up to normal levels of demand may be more challenging than usual
Deciding about working from home? Stress comes from uncertainty
Will June mark the return to life as it was circa January 2020? It’s unlikely, but it’s clear that some organisations are thinking about going back to the office. It’s a difficult call for people leaders - do you stay remote, look at hybrid working, or go back for good? - but don’t think it’s any easier for your people.
Some love the freedom of working from the front room, are desperate to be office-based - and others fall somewhere in-between. Either way, the uncertainty and lack of control of where they’ll spend 30+ hours a week in the future could be the most stressful thing of all.
Your next four priorities: transparency, communication, leadership, and listening
Let’s be clear: you need to be clear. Openly acknowledge the challenges everyone’s been facing, and the impact on the business’s performance. Create honest conversations around your next steps, so employees know where they stand.
Made a decision? Tell your employees! Feeling it out for a few more months, before finalising any plans? Tell them that too. Whichever way your leadership team is leaning, communicate that to your team and avoid any unpleasant surprises.
It’s time to step up and be there for your team. If they’re stressed, acknowledge it - and look for genuine ways to mitigate their concerns, or ease their pressures. It’ll mean better output, and a more stable workforce as you tackle the next steps.
Ask for feedback, whether through an employee survey or an open forum setting. Make sure your people know that you’re seeking their opinions, concerns, needs, and wants - even if it’s not a guarantee that it will affect your final decision.
Create an honest conversation with Qlearsite
There are lots of ways to help employees manage stress. We think having open, honest conversations is a key part of that. Now here’s a central theme to that stress - the uncertainty of the workplace - we can help with our research-based question set. Find out more: