April Is National Stress Awareness Month: How Can Leaders Help?

Since 1992, every April has been recognized as National Stress Awareness Month.

While stress is something most people would probably prefer to be unaware of, a healthy approach to acknowledging and mitigating stress is important for overall well-being. Unfortunately, a lot of people probably feel like their stress factors are out of their control — starting with their jobs.

If you’re a leader, your position gives you an ability, and even a responsibility, to help create a work environment that supports your employees’ well-being. There’s both a compassionate and a business case for this — when your employees feel healthy and happy, they are more productive, engaged, and loyal to your company.

Some stress factors are going to be beyond your ability to make an impact. Work still has to get done, even if a deadline creates anxiety. But how can you support your employees’ well-being and cultivate a work culture that fosters productivity, engagement, and loyalty?

I’ve got six quick tips for National Stress Awareness Month. that can help you best support your employees and create an environment without unnecessary workplace stress.

1. Set Up Clear Expectations

It’s not surprising, but unrealistic expectations are one of the biggest sources of stress for employees in the workplace. (Honestly, they’re one of the biggest sources of stress in any relationship.) Employees who lack clear direction on what is expected of them or who are consistently made to feel like they can’t keep up with their workload are likely to become overwhelmed and stressed out.

Setting and communicating realistic expectations for your employees’ work will help them keep ahead of a stressful situation. Be clear to convey what you expect from them — and then support them by providing tools and resources they’ll need to meet your expectations.

2. Encourage Time Management

Most people would identify time as one of their most precious commodities. Bearing this in mind, another important factor in maintaining healthy levels of stress is effective time management.

Poor time management often leads to burnout and stress — and unfortunately, it’s a common problem. But you can help your employees by encouraging them to learn how to prioritize their responsibilities and better manage their time.

There are lots of apps and tools available to help with this issue — consider compiling and providing a list of helpful resources, particularly any that you use yourself. Additionally, you can look to see what training and development programs may be available to your organization. While some may complain that an hour-long seminar on time management is ironic, it might make a significant different for a number of your employees.

3. Offer Flexible Scheduling

This will likely vary based on your business needs, but one of the best ways to show your employees that you care about their work-life balance is to offer flexibility in their work schedule. Depending on your business, this could mean allowing employees to work from home, work part-time or have flexible hours.

The pandemic put a major spotlight on this topic, and it’s remained an issue for a lot of workers and businesses. Just like you, your employees are likely facing stress from their personal lives as well as their professional responsibilities. Offering flexibility in their work schedule can make a big difference for employees who have caregiving responsibilities or who need to balance work with other commitments.

4. Foster a Positive Workplace Culture

Culture at work has become a significant focus in recent years, even serving as a top-level benefit in hiring and employee retention. Even more than that, though, having a positive workplace culture is critical for your employees’ well-being. Office culture varies from organization to organization, but generally speaking a healthy, collaborative and positive workplace culture is one that helps employees feel valued, respected and supported every day.

To help create this type of positive culture in your organization, take the lead in encouraging open communication, providing opportunities for employee feedback, and recognizing and rewarding good work. I encourage our leadership team to live this out at Brokers International, with multiple recommended avenues for feedback so we can hear from (and learn from) employees however they’re comfortable — open office hours, suggestion box, etc.

5. Provide Health and Wellness Programs

For employees looking to reduce stress in their lives, health and wellness programs are an excellent way for leaders to support their workers. This type of initiative will require more of an organizational investment, but the benefit to employees can be significant.

These types of programs can include a wide range of benefits, including gym membership reimbursement, mental health benefits, healthy in-office snacks, and even on-site fitness centers. Leaders who provide these programs to their employees demonstrate that they value their employees’ well-being and actively support their health and happiness.

6. Lead by Example

Ultimately, one of the most important things you can do to help your employees avoid stress and achieve a better work-life balance is to lead by example. If you are always working late, checking your email outside of work hours, or neglecting your own well-being, your employees are likely to feel pressure to do the same.

If, however, you model an approach that shows you prioritize taking care of your own well-being, you are likely to inspire your employees to follow suit. Showing that it’s OK to slow down and minimize high-pressure expectations will go a long way in proving to your team that you care about their well-being as well as the company’s bottom line.

Interested in learning more about becoming the type of leader who supports employees and inspires loyalty — not just during National Stress Awareness Month? Let’s connect — I’d love to help set you on the path to being a truly collaborative leader. 

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