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What leaders need to do to prevent work-life stress from taking over the office



It doesn’t take long after a promotion to learn that leading is so much more than delegating. The most significant part of the job is being a model and a resource to your team, and that goes doubly for keeping up the morale, momentum, and productivity of your employees.


As leaders, we have a responsibility not only to productivity but also to contribute to the work-life satisfaction of our employees. Not only are we in charge of our own sense of fulfillment, but our influence can create an environment that continues this in our employees. Surroundings are essential, and the right ones can curb work stress from festering through the department.


Key sources of work stress

You might think stress is an internal issue caused by outside forces. This is partially true, but most stressors are work-related. According to The American Institute of Stress, the most significant cause (46%) of stress is from an employee’s workload. Interpersonal dynamics (people issues) gets 28% of the blame, while 6% is attributed to juggling work and personal life. This stress not only affects emotional health but also starts to impact physical well-being and relationships with colleagues. This has many consequences, but what you will notice more than anything is the reduction in productivity and performance.


Half of the 80% of workers who reported stress on the job said they needed help with managing the stress. A good leader is aware of these situations that occur in the office, while a great manager takes the initiative to find ways to reduce stress in the workplace.


If you’re still reading, you must be one of those great managers. Here are a few ideas to cultivate with your team to address workplace stress.


Help them understand the company vision

It’s probably on your corporate webpage somewhere, but how many employees take the time to read it and understand it. If you don’t know your company vision, find it right now – we’ll wait. Share that vision with your team regularly and point out how different actions contribute to that vision.


One of the critical contributors to satisfaction at work is employees' understanding of the purpose of their work. By understanding the company vision, they can see how their contribution fits into the big picture. Take it another level by engaging the team to come up with a group or department vision. This expanded understanding and shared philosophy give work more meaning and inspire higher performance which reduces stress. Make it fun and encourage them to associate actions and achievements to the team vision. You could even go so far as to give them some kind of token to remind them what they’re striving for.


Be the example

Before you go any further, it’s time to check yourself for a moment. As a leader, you are setting the tone and rhythm of the team, both consciously and subconsciously. How you act and the choices you make send a powerful message to your team. Be transparent in your decisions and actions, and encourage everyone else to do the same.


Hold people accountable before calling them to the carpet

Accountability doesn’t have to be punitive. By addressing accountability proactively, a leader gains better chances for success. Remind yourself that employees do not set themselves up to fail and fall short of expectations. When standards are not met, it is usually due to an uncontrolled variance or a failure of alignment between you and the employee.


How did that Happen by Roger Connors and Tom Smith teach us how to hold people accountable in a positive, principled way.


When forming expectations, start with the acronym FORM to give them a useful structure:

  • Framable – it is consistent with the company or team vision and business priorities

  • Obtainable – it can be achieved given the current resource and capacity factors

  • Repeatable – it is portable and can be communicated to all contributors

  • Measurable – progress can be tracked and measured

When communicating the “what” and “when” of your expectations, which is precisely what 95% of leaders do, be the 5% that adds “why” to the equation. Never assume everyone understands “why.” Using the what/when/why approach to accountability helps employees understand the scope of the assignment and creates the buy-in you need to ensure a successful outcome.

  • Why – make it compelling (why this is important, why I chose YOU)

  • What – use FORM

  • When – be specific with a date and time for completion and/or updates

If you foresee any obstacles, prepare your employees for those by trying to resolve them ahead of time or providing clear direction to work around them. Having a clear understanding of expectations as well as foreseeable barriers and solutions provides a different level of confidence in achieving the task, thus reducing or eliminating much of the stress (for you and the employee) associated with the task


Provide feedback

Employees would prefer to be corrected quickly instead of wasting time and resources doing something wrong. Provide feedback as soon as possible. Do so constructively with their sense of purpose and achievement in mind.


At the same time, carry the same sense of urgency for positive feedback for your team, and encourage them to do the same toward each other. This will help create that positive, stress-reducing environment you seek.


Be flexible

Depending on the nature of work, of course, try to keep a level of flexibility when it comes to details like where and when your employees work. When you focus on performance and outcomes over method and timing, they will appreciate the flexibility and trust extended to them. Employees who take advantage of different locations and work time opportunities have a higher level of satisfaction. Think about it – if you cannot trust people who work for you, why are they working for you?


Exercise your influence

As a leader, your influence can inspire changes that enhance work-life fulfillment for your team and the organization as a whole. Exercise that influence to shape policies, practices, and a new normal. Become an advocate for work-life satisfaction with other leaders across the company.


Create a culture of recognition

Employees love being praised for a job well done by you and their colleagues alike, creating a significant boost in engagement. Because you cannot see everything good that happens on your team, encourage employees to recognize each other, and make a big deal about it. Your employees will love the renewed positive energy and keep strong through stressful times, inspired to muscle through.


Work2Live is a powerful tool used to create a culture of recognition, and it is also scalable to your budget. By encouraging life experiences, employees are recharged and changed to their core in a way that no company t-shirt can achieve. Start with a demo to learn more!


Good companies and great leaders understand that employees are the heart of their success. Being a great leader isn’t just about results; it's about walking your talk and empowering your team to realize work-life satisfaction.