The Secret To Managing Employee Stress

The Secret To Managing Employee Stress

Rise and shine. Kiss the kids and your partner. Feed the dog. Grab breakfast and head out the door. Jump in the car, on the bus, or subway. The sun is rising. It’s a new day. The work day is spread out before you.

Sounds wonderful, but sometimes it’s not.

When we go to work we take along an invisible backpack containing the worries of our family life (perhaps the child who didn’t sleep, the spouse who is unhappy, or the recently diagnosed mother), and a load of our own anxieties and concerns. The backpack is heavy, made heavier so by the pressures of our jobs. When we experience unhealthy amounts of stress, we physically are not at our best. Sleep is often interrupted, as is healthy eating, and good habits such as exercise. We also often self-medicate with medications or alcohol.

We all experience stress. Some stress, called eustress, is healthy. Eustress is motivating. It helps us get off the couch, get to work on time, get the report completed, or apply for the promotion. However, when we tip into distress, stress becomes unhealthy and unproductive.

It is usually pretty easy to identify an employee in distress. He or she may be anxious, moody, or unusually irritable. Why? It’s actually a physical reaction: When in distress we are only able to access a small section of our brain, the amygdala, the center for fight or flight response. When in this state, the manager’s brain cannot distinguish between real and perceived threats. This often gets in the way of relationships with colleagues. Conversations that could be collaborative negotiations instead end unproductively and harm the development of trust.

Constructive feedback is a great first step to providing assistance. Acknowledging the great work that your manager regularly produces, and that there has been a shift.

Here’s some sample dialogue that may help: “John, I hope you know how much you are valued at our firm. You are a key member of the team and we rely on your expertise. However, I’m worried about you. I noticed how you responded to Cindy in the meeting. I know her question was a bit off topic, but typically that would not have bothered you. I am wondering if there is something going on that you might be willing to share with me.”

If your manager is depressed or his/her anxiety is debilitating it may be time to refer the manager to the company’s EAP [Employee Assistance Program] or directly to a therapist for help. However, there may be other options. Executive coaching, with a qualified accredited coach, can provide objective feedback through validated diagnostics such as a 360 instrument, and one-one-one sessions to help the manager move forward towards more effective behaviors.

Katie Riker Sternberg, ACC, MSW, LMSW, MBA

About the Author: Katie Riker Sternberg, ACC, MSW, LMSW, MBA, is the Founder of Momentum Executive and Personal Coaching, LLC. Katie’s 25 years of experience is a blend of senior marketing leadership, entrepreneurship, independent consulting to business leaders, individual counseling and executive coaching. You can follow Katie on Facebook to keep up with her latest posts.

For more information on how Highflyer HR can provide you and your company with effective stress management solutions, contact us today!

HR Strategies To Prevent Stress In The Workplace

HR Strategies To Prevent Stress In The Workplace

April is National Stress Awareness Month!

 

Consequences of too much stress within an organization may include increased turnover, spikes in health care costs, loss of valuable and productive employees, and loss of office collegiality. Employees caught managing organizational strife may individually struggle with physical or mental consequences.

“When we go to work we take along an invisible backpack containing the worries of our family life (perhaps the child who didn’t sleep, the spouse who is unhappy, or the recently diagnosed mother), and a load of our own anxieties and concerns. The backpack is heavy, made heavier so by the pressures of our jobs. When we experience unhealthy amounts of stress, we physically are not at our best.”

 

Katie Riker Sternberg, ICC, MSW, LMSW, MBA

Momentum Personal and Executive Coaching, LLC

Signs of Stress in the Workplace:

 

  • Excessive workload (i.e., increase in overtime hours, work over the weekend)
  • Mood swings (i.e., irritable, anxious, abnormally sensitive)
  • Decrease in productivity
  • Increase in absenteeism (i.e., increase in sick or personal days)
  • Disengaged (i.e., less social and more secluded than normal)
  • Fatigue (i.e., make more mistakes than usual)
  • Job dissatisfaction
  • Conflicts with bosses or coworkers

HR Strategies to Prevent Stress

1. Stress Management Coaching and Training

Adopt stress management education into your employee wellness program to educate employees on how to cope with day-to-day stressors. Executive coaching and team training are useful options, as they provide support, guidance, and resolution to stress-related problems. Have a therapist or health professional speak to your staff to provide knowledge on the effects of stress and tips to prevent them. Hold stress management workshops or schedule “Lunch and Learns” that cover topics on helping employees manage and reduce stress in their work and personal lives. Helping employees deal with stress improves engagement by contradicting things like the physical and mental damage stress can bring upon an individual.

 

2. Open Communication

Maintaining open communication and consultation are critical to leadership and preventing stress. Create an atmosphere where people feel it is okay to talk to management about problems they are facing. Talk with employees regularly to make sure everyone is clear about their job specifics and what is required of them. Provide clear business objectives, deadlines and expectations to make workdays more productive and less stressful. Carry out regular employee surveys to help you find any stress-related problems with individual managers or employees.

 

3. Flexible Schedules

The struggle to balance work and life is one of the main stressors employees face. Problems of commuting to and from work, finding time in the day to complete much-needed errands and still fit in quality time with family, personal obligations and many more challenge employees daily. Provide opportunities for employees who struggle with these daily challenges to contribute ideas on planning and organizing their own schedules. Having more control over their own schedule can boost employee morale and eliminate much of the daily workplace stressors. Encourage a healthy work-life balance by working with employees to offer flexible work arrangements, such as flexible hours, telecommuting or video conferencing, part-time work and job-sharing.

 

4. Value Employees

To maintain a happy, healthy and productive workplace, it is important to help employees cope with all stressors in their life, including the issues you cannot change. Try offering on-site services to employees at a discount. Services to implement might include car washes, oil changes, dry cleaning, mailing services, restaurant food delivery, eyeglass care, shoe shines, etc. Massage therapy is one of the best ways to help employees relax and relieve stress. Have a massage therapy service come to your office to offer neck and shoulder massages. Stress triggers all types of medical conditions. Provide free monthly health screenings for blood pressure or cholesterol. Programs like this can help employees identify stress-related health risks and provide knowledge of ways to improve their health. Partner up with a local gym to create weekly group exercise classes or discounts when purchasing memberships. Exercising and healthy eating can provide drastic changes in stress levels, resulting in increased productivity, energy, and inspiration to do better.

 

Help employees feel capable of dealing with all stressors in their lives by implementing some of the above HR strategies and maintain a happy, healthy and productive working environment.

 

Stay tuned for next week’s blog to hear more on stress management in the workplace through the eyes of Katie Sternberg, ICC, MSW, LMSW, MBA of Momentum Personal and Executive Coaching, LLC!

5 Things Your Competitors Can Teach You About Open Enrollment

5 Things Your Competitors Can Teach You About Open Enrollment

Open Enrollment can be an overwhelming period for both employers and employees. The season brings brokers and HR professionals an annual administrative headache with stress factors of the options of new plans and shifts in the level of participation.

It is a good strategic move to monitor what is working for your competitors and adapt some of their methods and techniques to maximize your own performance and growth. Here are 5 things you can learn from your competitors about open enrollment.

1) Plan Ahead, Start Early

Communicate early & often – don’t bombard your clients with loads of information at one time. Provide them with the dates of Open Enrollment, an overview of changes, and what this means to them.

Communicate clearly – don’t make assumptions about how well everyone already understands their benefit plans. We fight an endless employee benefits battle with half of the effort towards finding ways to communicate offerings that are understandable and easy to grasp. Make difficult benefit decisions easier by keeping everything organized and easy to follow with tips, guides, and checklists. Use Open Enrollment as an opportunity to listen to your clients to see what they do and do not understand.

2) Don’t Rely on One Communication Strategy

Workplace demographics can be very diverse, with differing preferences. Not all participants are the same, and the benefits they require will differ. This diversity allows you to create more personalized and targeted messages. Tailor messages to specific plans while presenting in the clearest and simple format. Create a 1-page ‘Quick Guide’ for your clients outlining the benefits and disadvantages of each plan option providing a clear insight into advantages, costs, and expectations.

Participants learn differently and at various speeds. They have their own preferences of how to receive communication. Deliver messages through different types of communication channels (email, social media, text messages, videos/webinars, blogs, message boards, FAQs, mailers, direct meetings, etc.). Meet your clients where THEY are, not where it is easiest.

Work with clients to enhance employee engagement.

  • Give a Lunch and Learn about topics like the difference between HSA, HRA, and FSA.
  • Hold a raffle or give door prizes to the first 25 people to complete enrollment.
  • Provide Open Enrollment counseling. Multiple factors go into someone’s health plan decision from comparing options to spouse’s plans, to family and lifestyle changes. Host a ‘Family Day’ for employees to include their spouses. Educate employees on their healthcare options, benefits summaries, changes in plans, important deadlines, and offer guidance to choosing the best plan for their family.
  • Use social media to give clients tips on healthcare plans, the enrollment process, or unseen features of their health plan.

Offer an online learning center portal to clients filled with articles and video courses to help clients and their employees explore and learn more about new or existing benefits that are being offered. Take advantage of the employees’ competitive instincts by giving various rewards to the employees who complete the courses.

3) Regardless of Whether Great or Awful News, Give Your Clients Timely Feedback

There are so many online tools that can help you deliver better and faster customer service and help to better your time management strategies.

Check out these FREE tools to use and recommend to your clients:

Cam Scanner – scan documents directly from mobile device – and make them look like real scans, instead of rushing to send out documents, can get it done on the go

Dropbox – store documents in the cloud and have them accessible from anywhere – have client folders in order and handy whenever needed

PrimoPDF – app to convert to, or print a PDF document

PDF Merge – merge PDF’s into one singular PDF file

PDFescape – perfect solution for anyone who has a digital version of their signature on computer and would like to add to PDF documents – upload any PDF doc, add signatures, text, and dates where necessary

Google Hangout – face-to-face video conferencing, screen sharing, instant messaging, podcasts, mastermind calls

Sign Easy – a tool for those who are always on the go. Create an account, “draw” your signature, and start signing documents from any mobile device (Free Trial Available)

FREE tools to help with time management:

Buffer – save time and simplify your social media routine by scheduling posts on all your social media networks.

RoboForm – password management app, works as a browser extension and allows you to easily save and store login to websites with a click of a button.

BuzzSomo – analyze what content performs best for any topic or competitor, provides content discovery/blog ideas, content alerts, competitor research (plugin domain and see which content they’ve created that has done well with social shares)

Grammarly – this tool helps to make sure everything you type is clear, effective and mistake-free.

Awesome ScreenShot – image annotation tool, a browser extension that allows you to take a snapshot of a part, or all your screen, add annotations, comments, blur sensitive info, and share with one-click uploads.

4) Think Beyond Open Enrollment

Never stop communicating! Keep your clients in tune with what is happening and changing on a continuous basis. Once an employee is enrolled, they will need help using their chosen plan. Provide your clients with ‘After Enrollment Tips’ through help videos, webinars, telephone support, or hold educational meetings.

When Open Enrollment season ends, start planning for the next year. Look back at last year’s process to determine what went well and what could be improved. How effective was the communication strategy? Was quality customer service delivered? What were the most time-consuming tasks and how can they be simplified for next year? What were the top questions asked by clients? Knowing what your challenges are and will be will help you revamp your strategy for next year.

Measure your success by meeting with clients to review what they liked, didn’t like, or would change for next year to see which strategies worked and didn’t work. Act on this feedback to streamline a more efficient process for next year.

5) Have a Partner to Help

Utilize a human capital management software to add value to your clients, remain competitive, stay on top of changes with updates to keep clients compliant with laws and regulations, worry-free ACA reporting and filing, automatic broker alerts, and more. Consolidating your products onto one cloud-based platform allows you to add or remove products when needed as well as deliver a streamlined enrollment experience to your clients.

For more information on how Highflyer HR can provide effective open enrollment solutions, Contact us at (844) 398-7800 or getstarted@highflyerhr.com.

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