Coming out of the pandemic more organisations are focusing time and attention on the issue of managing and reducing workplace stress as part of their efforts to sustain employee wellbeing and support long term engagement.

The positive actions and behaviours of line managers and leaders are fundamental to creating a workplace culture that reduces stress and sustains higher levels of performance and teamwork. CIPD research shows that by far the most common cause of stress at work is heavy workloads, followed by the second most common cause – management style.

To some extent feelings of stress are normal and an everyday part of life, but when stress is sustained or excessive this is when it can have a negative impact on physical and mental health and have detrimental impact on performance.

Manager actions – How to prevent stress in the workplace

Build relationships with your colleagues

  • Schedule regular 1-2-1’s and catch up’s
  • Identify what motivates the team
  • Identify what kind of events or situations tend to trigger feelings of stress
  • Identify if the team have concerns around job security, work-life balance, or ability to cope with work loads
  • Demonstrate empathy and encourage the team to speak up when things aren’t great
  • For remote workers make the time to have social conversations and not just business focused calls

Lead by example

  • Take the time to have breaks during the day and avoid creating a culture of excessive attendance
  • Book your holidays and use your leave entitlement
  • Manage your own working hours and signal that you don’t expect others to respond to emails or messages outside of working hours
  • Monitor your own reactions to stress and how these may influence how you behave or act towards others
  • Avoid setting the example that you should come to work when ill
  • Promote and discuss wellbeing at team meetings and during 1-2-1’s

Monitor workloads

  • Make sure expectations, duties and responsibilities are well defined to avoid staff taking on too much work
  • Monitor working hours, colleagues working sustained long or late hours may indicate they have a problem with the amount of work they have or how they are prioritising their work
  • Be prepared to coach your team if they are struggling with organising or focusing on tasks
  • Investigate how work is being done by reviewing systems and processes that may be overly complicated and find ways of simplifying things
  • Be realistic when you set deadlines and let the team know they can push back and challenge if they think it is not realistic
  • For remote workers ensure they are following structured working hours during the day
  • For capable team members who are remote avoid micromanaging or asking for constant progress updates that create a sense of pressure

Address presenteeism

  • Make sure team members who are unwell take sick leave instead of coming in to work, be prepared to ask people to go home if they are unwell
  • Avoid emailing people when you know they are off sick or inviting them to attend remote meetings
  • Lead by example and don’t take calls or answer emails when you are on holiday
  • Encourage the team to use holiday as downtime and make plans to manage their work in their absence
  • Encourage employees not to have work emails on personal devices at home
  • Monitor the health of remote workers and if they are or appear unwell ensure they take sick leave

These actions are abridged from the CIPD publication – A guide to preventing and reducing stress at work – this can be found here.