For the majority of workers, experiencing a bit of job related stress comes as no surprise.
Many individuals thrive on the minor stress that comes from a tight deadline or difficult project, but the presence of excessive stress can often lead to serious mental and physical health difficulties for employees.
Effective leaders remain vigilant for signs of excessive stress in their employees, and offer coping strategies to ensure their success in the workplace.
One of the leading causes of employee stress is the perception of an imbalance between work demands and compensation. Simply put, asking employees to come in early, stay late, and take work home with them in order to complete projects on a tight deadline is likely to induce unnecessary stress, particularly if they are salaried and not compensated for their overtime hours. In these cases, employees may feel entitled to engage in time theft – claiming they are working while idling away at their desk to recoup pay they feel they are owed. They may also decide to take sick leave at the end of a project to recuperate from the stresses of a tight deadline, costing their employer productive time.
A simple solution to prevent feelings of being overworked is to carefully manage projects using employee feedback. Regular meetings should take place to ensure that workers are given adequate time to complete tasks and are allowed input regarding their work load. While it is not always reasonable for employees to complete one project at a time, listing to their feedback to ensure they are not overwhelmed can go a long ways towards preventing burnout and turnover.
Work demands can also be seen as a source of stress when work tasks are poorly matched to the employees’ skills. Struggling to complete a task using a specific method or requiring skills that the employee does not possess can quickly progress from mild stress to frustration and burnout. If these feelings are allowed to fester as the project progresses, employees may reach their tipping point and decide to leave the organisation.
Leaders can prevent turnover due to mismatched job tasks by engaging themselves with their workforce and remaining aware of the talents that each employee brings to the job. When employees are assigned tasks that fit well with their knowledge, skills, and abilities, they often feel that their jobs are intrinsically rewarding and enjoyable, which significantly decreases the risk of burnout.
Finally, some positions are inherently high in either emotional or physical demands. Employees in these positions may quickly reach burnout if they are not provided with adequate levels of protection or support. For these positions, offering regular breaks away from demanding or repetitive tasks and offering training in coping skills can give employees the tools they need to remain focused and engaged with their job.
Effective leaders should remain aware of the challenges of work demand within their organisation. By taking the time to ensure that employees are matched with projects suited to their unique abilities and that the time required does not significantly exceed their work hours, leaders can remain confident that employees are able to provide their best work while minimising their risk of burnout.
Head of Training and Development
Originally published: 27 August, 2014
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