The evidence tells us that we are living an age of unprecedented stress. Mental health issues and well-being are taken much more seriously than they were fifty years ago but recognizing and understanding the problems is not the same as eliminating them.
In 2017, the American Psychological Association published a report called ‘2017 Stress in America: State of our Nation study’  which identified employee pressure as the main source of stress for 61% of respondents. It noted that people were more willing to report their symptoms but little was being done to address the causes. Just a few years further on, little has materially changed.
It’s in no one’s interests for employees to burnout. It’s a nightmare for them, but it’s also hugely detrimental to their employers, for whom they are the greatest business resource. Even in purely practical terms, the loss of an employee through anxiety and stress will cost the employer a lot of money finding and training a replacement. Meanwhile productivity will take a hit.
Far better to anticipate any pressures that might negatively impact an employee and remove them at source. A happy employee is a productive one and is likely to remain committed to the company for the longer term. So what measures can you take to prevent burnout and optimize productivity?
This concept was dismissed in some industries during the 80s and 90s as pandering to employees who didn’t have the ‘right stuff’. Dedication to your employer had to be total and unconditional. That idea might have had traction in the 1950s before the pressures of globalisation took hold but in the trading environments that developed towards the end of the last century, it was a recipe for meltdown.
It became common for high-paid, high-performing employees to jump ship and downscale for a better life. Soon employers began to realize that it was beneficial to them to guarantee their employees a satisfactory balance. In companies where the demands on employees are measurably more reasonable, both productivity and staff retention improved.
Appreciation and Reward
It’s a pretty basic human need to be recognized for what you contribute to your community, whether it’s a familial, social or professional one. Generous salaries represent a consistent reward, but there’s no substitute for personal recognition and the acknowledgement of work that achieves the highest standards. That’s not to suggest the kind of brutal league table that sets colleagues against each other to make their monthly targets. The idea is to establish a much less formal system that recognizes and rewards excellence without alienating others – an inclusive structure of encouragement and praise.
Many employers have found innovative ways to spread the word internally about the achievements of particular employees, using technology like digital signage to keep the workforce up to date. You may feel that this is something more suited to the retail environment or academia, but in the extensive experience of specialists, Mandoe Media, digital signs can promote productivity. Not only do they boost the motivation of the individuals concerned but they demonstrate the company’s positive attitude to internal communication.
The concept of recognition – and the way it is expressed – is an important feature in the creation and maintenance of a strong, attractive company culture. Increasingly, employees are looking to their working experience for much more than simply money or material benefits. A company culture should enable individuals to form friendships and collaborations, to work on their own initiative, to pursue personal growth alongside company goals, to feel, essentially, at home in the workplace.
The endorsement of colleagues and managers is part of this, but there is much more that you as an employer can do to set the tone by prescribing policy, practice and values. A strong employer value proposition (EVP) is essential to keep employees motivated and to minimize stress or at the very least put it into a manageable context.
Maybe this seems too obvious, but the best employers listen. If staff have worries, it is far healthier for them to be able to express those worries within the company environment than to keep unhappily silent. An employer should actively encourage candour, making it clear that all feedback is welcome and will be taken seriously. It’s informative to the employer and stress-relieving for the employee. One day, it is to be hoped, every company will be run this way.