When the leaves start falling, fourth quarter results are coming due, and the holiday season is around the corner, many people start experiencing stress at work and if these can be identified early, action can be taken before the pressure builds and becomes a problem. The average direct cost of absenteeism to the Canadian employer is $3,550 per employee per year (Watson Wyatt). The annual cost to Canadian companies due to stress-related disorders is $12 billion; In Canada, absenteeism due to stress has increased by over 300% since 1995.
How do you know if you or your employees are stressed and if action should be taken? As stress can show itself in many different ways, managers need to keep their eyes open for changes in the way people behave that could be linked with excessive pressures.
Signs of stress in individuals
I have outlined below a few symptoms to watch out for in your employees who may be suffering from or feeling the effects of stress. If you observe that work or aspects of your employee’s work brings on or make these symptoms worse, make sure you address it with the employee. It may be that some action taken at an early stage will ease the stress and reduce or stop the symptoms. Deal with the issue before it becomes a bigger problem.
- Negative or depressive feeling
- Disappointment with yourself
- Increased emotional reactions – more tearful or sensitive or aggressive
- Loneliness, withdrawn
- Loss of motivation commitment and confidence
- Mood swings (not behavioural)
- Confusion, indecision
- Can’t concentrate
- Poor memory
- On-the-job ‘absenteeism’
Changes from normal behaviour
- Changes in eating habits
- Increased smoking, drinking or drug taking ‘to cope’
- Mood swings effecting behaviour
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Twitchy, nervous behaviour
- Changes in attendance such as arriving later or taking more time off.
It is not up to you as a manager to diagnose stress, leave that to the professionals, but if you observe that something is not quite right with your employee, you should take prompt action by meeting with your employee, and focusing on his or her job performance by pointing out that there has been a change in the performance. Identify what you have observed, and ask the employee what has changed to affect performance. The employee will usually be forthcoming about the circumstances that have affected the work performance and created the stress. Provide support to the employee by offering the employee the opportunity to address the issue with for example, a professional counsellor. Do not focus on the personal problem but on the effect of the problem on the employee’s performance. You and your employee can mutually agree on a period of time where you will meet again and revisit the work performance. Your employee will see that by attending to his or her personal issue will lessen the experienced stress and eventually increase productivity.
How About You?
Do you think your employees are experiencing symptoms of stress? If so, whom do they normally reach out to? I look forward to hearing your feedback in the comments below.