How to Reduce Employee Anxiety in a Downward Economy
By Margaret Hansen, JobsInDE.com
Calming the Storm
A new bag of management tricks is needed in today's workplace to calm the recession's storm.
According to the American Psychological Association, today's employees face obstacles that increase stress and bog down productivity, including:
- Shifting to unfamiliar tasks within their companies
- The uncertainty of how much longer they will be employed
- New bosses
- Computer surveillance of production
- Fewer health and retirement benefits
- The feeling they have to work longer and harder just to maintain their current economic status
Tension and uncertainty are affecting workers at all levels, and most are updating their resumes.
Whether these conditions are real or perceived in your workplace, there are some ways you can change your work environment to keep stress at bay and improve productivity in a recession.
Keep Lines of Communication Open with Your Staff
Know what's bugging them on the job and take steps to remove those roadblocks and other stressors.
Create Written Job Descriptions for Every Employee
A specific, written job description creates clear, agreed-upon expectations and provides a sense of pride and respect in one's work. Reviews and raises should be tied to this.
Provide Self-help Opportunities
According to Forbes magazine, forecasts predict that the self-help industry will experience a 6.2% annual growth rate through 2012. Why? They offer hope. Securing a few dollars to provide financial counseling, career counseling, ways to budget, or weight loss strategies can offer solutions that reduce stress. If your budget is dry, try seeking out volunteers within the company who'll offer helpful sessions to your team.
Use Empathetic Responses when Talking About Problems
Just a few words of empathy can take the pressure off of someone whose spouse has been laid off, or who is going through a financial crisis.
Encourage Staff to Use Their Vacation Time
According to Mel Borins, M.D. and author of Go Away Just for the Health of It, taking a vacation can improve physical ailments and, in turn, improve self-motivation, job interest and job efficiency while lowering absenteeism.
Recruit for Keeps
Effective recruiting and retention means ensuring employees are the right "fit" for the job and the work environment. Job hunting can be stressful, particularly in times of high unemployment, but being ground down day after day by work is far worse, says Lyle H. Miller, Ph.D. and Alma Dell Smith, Ph.D., authors of The Stress Solution.
Make sure you don't have any square pegs in round holes on staff. Hiring superstars may seem like a good idea in a downward economy, but retaining them on the way up may prove to be more difficult than originally thought.
Deal with Trauma
Post-layoff workplaces are vulnerable to more stress. Be sure to give those remaining time to grieve and digest the news, perhaps in an off-site meeting/luncheon to come together for support and some time off.
Remember, everyone in your organization will go through the same stages of loss, but since management will undoubtedly know about disruptive events in advance, they may be beyond denial and anger before the news hits the floor.
Margaret Hansen has been writing professionally since receiving a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Maine. She has worked for multiple organizations as a weekly newspaper reporter, a weekly newspaper editor, and in a variety of internal/external marketing communications roles. Her freelance career has focused on writing and editing for print, email and web publications in the employment industry, as well as manuscript editing and resume writing. Margaret has been affiliated with JobsInDE.com since 2003, most recently as the content manager/writer/editor for the company's award-winning employment-related newsletters. To suggest articles, or if you are interested in writing for JobsInDE.com, please email her at mhansen (at) JobsInDE.com.