To say that 2020 led to increased stress and anxiety is perhaps the understatement of the decade. It introduced turmoil that rocked the world, the aftershocks of which we are still contending with. It has also taken a toll on employee engagement. The good news is that managers and decision-makers can take an active role in alleviating that problem by helping your employees overcome feelings of being overwhelmed.
However, managers and decision-makers should understand the sources of stress and anxiety that lead to employees feeling overwhelmed and burdened. In this post, we will not only identify the stressors your employees are struggling with but explore how to boost engagement by helping them overcome those problems thereby improving already employee performance.
End Of Year Coupled with COVID
This year, we’re facing some pretty unique challenges. Not only do you have your usual glut of end-of-year projects and holiday stressors, but COVID-19 is still wreaking havoc. Most employees continue to work from their home offices, their personal lives are still turned upside down, and there’s no sign that things will be changing for the better soon.
While the pandemic has certainly changed our lifestyles, those changes may not always be for the better. Many employees are struggling with worsening health conditions as gyms are once more forced to close or when they are unable to keep up with fitness routines due to social distancing rules.
The United States has one of the highest levels of employment-related stress in the world, often due to a poor employee-to-position fit (the wrong people in the wrong positions). This leads to dramatic impacts on our lives in a range of ways, from headaches and insomnia to an increased chance of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and so much more.
One factor that surprises many managers (although it should not) is the level of burnout among their teams. Up to 67% of Americans feel burned out, with 23% of those surveyed by Gallup experiencing that sensation almost all the time. Burnout is caused by stress, the pressure to perform, poor job fits, and a lack of employees feeling engaged, combined with an inability to do work that matters to them on an intrinsic level.
What Managers Can Do: Tips to Boost Engagement
As you can see, there are many reasons for employees feeling overwhelmed and stressed. However, there are things that you can do as a manager to change the paradigm. It is possible to take teams from this point of struggle to being engaged and more efficient.
Know What to Look For
The first thing is for managers to know the warning signs to look for in terms of employee burnout and a sense of being overwhelmed. These include:
- Increased absences
- Behavioral changes
- Increased health problems
- Frequently being late to work
- Increased isolation
- A lack of interaction with peers
When you identify any of these factors, it should be a trigger for additional action. Take steps to connect with the affected employee and begin to rectify the situation.
Conduct Regular Check-Ins
Regular check-ins should be part and parcel of your COVID routine by this point. If they’re not, it’s long past time to institute them. Every week, schedule time to (virtually) sit down with each team member for at least a few minutes. This is your chance to connect with them personally and to ask questions – is their workload too heavy? Are they doing work they find rewarding? What other stressors are they dealing with? How can you help lighten their burden?
Consider Flexible Schedules
Now more than ever, organizations can benefit from doing away with the standard 9 to 5 schedule. If there is no real point to having an employee work those hours other than “it’s the way we’ve always done it”, then you should explore your options to provide additional flexibility.
Not only can offering employees a little more leeway to start and end their day later or earlier than normal set your organization apart from competitors, but it can also help them address key challenges in their life. They could be struggling to balance personal and work life, and being able to start working at 10 AM instead of 8 AM could alleviate that burden and help them feel less overwhelmed by it all.
One driver of disengagement and stress is feeling like you’re doing a great job and then routinely being ignored. If you’re taking the stance that employees should do a great job all the time and good work is therefore not noteworthy, it is time to reconsider your position.
By showing gratitude and praising your team members for jobs well done, you achieve several important goals, including:
- You show them that they are valued.
- You tell them that their efforts matter.
- You prove that you’re aware of what they bring to the table.
When employees feel recognized and supported, they become more engaged and better able to do their best work. A simple thank you or a shoutout at a team meeting can go a very long way toward increasing engagement and alleviating stress.
Focus on Well-Being
Too often, employees feel that they need to put their work first. They sacrifice time with their families, their fitness, and their health in the drive to be as valuable as possible to the organization. While that might result in great work for a time, it eventually takes a toll. Human beings can only burn the candle at both ends for so long before there is no more candle to burn. As a manager, encourage your team members to take time for self-care and to improve their well-being.
Create an Engaged, Successful Team
With the tips above, you should be better positioned to identify stressors your employees experience and begin helping them feel less overwhelmed. When you take positive action, the results are profound – improved engagement, greater efficiency, and bolstered success.