Stress in the workplace is most often felt when projects and tasks are either beyond the skills of the employee or there isn’t enough time to research and complete it. For some people these are the optimal conditions to excel -- a little pressure can be an effective motivator -- but not all employees will react this way. Many will find the pressure to be too much, especially at particularly busy times, which for finance and accounting staff naturally falls at month and year-end.
It is important to be compassionate towards your staff: legally companies are required to maintain a healthy working environment for their staff which means they need to take stress into account. Not only this, but an overly stressed workforce has been positively linked to increased staff turnover, increased levels of mistakes, lack of productivity and loss of growth.
Although stress is difficult to eliminate completely from the workplace (it’s part and parcel with the job to a certain extent), but it can be recognised, and employers can take appropriate steps to minimise its effects.
Managing stress during uncertain times
Another source of stress for many employees occurs when there is business uncertainty – whether that be a merger or acquisition, new leadership, fluctuations in business performance or in the case of wider economic slowdown and uncertainty. Recognising that employees do not operate in a bubble – factors like news headlines, social commentary (both online and in person) and personal/family situation will impact one’s internalisation of events. It is important to help employees manage their stress during times of uncertainty.
As a manager, it’s important to provide regular communication with employees. While you may not be able to share confidential business performance information, it is imperative to be able to provide reassurance or at least a level of transparency and honesty to help allay fears. As a business, however, the leadership should craft employee communications to ensure that the message is unified and delivered across the employee base at the same time – this is not the time for the employee rumour mill! This can be particularly important if you have large numbers of staff working remotely or are managing international teams.
Warning signs that your employees are stressed:
Stress can manifest in many different ways; it can have a mental or physical effect on a person. There are a few common symptoms of stress that you should be aware of in the workplace:
This can range from increased and sustained sick leave, to arriving late or taking more smoking breaks.
When an employee is overwhelmed or stressed it will affect their work -- from missed deadlines, increased errors, to below-par deliverables.
Changes in behaviour:
Stress can put people on the edge and make them more emotionally volatile, making them prone to overreacting, irritability, anxiety or arguing.
How can employers reduce stress in the workplace?
Having a good strategy in place to alleviate stress amongst your staff and colleagues will increase morale and create a supportive environment. This can have positive long-term repercussions, as a supportive and inclusive workplace has been linked to reduced staff turnover:
83% of millennials are actively engaged when they believe an organisation fosters an inclusive culture – Deloitte University 
There are some measures you can take to reduce stress for employees:
Encourage open communication and trust
It’s a good idea to make sure your colleagues and employees feel comfortable talking to their managers and discussing workloads or deadlines or requesting support. Conversely, encourage your managers to have one-on-one meetings with staff to discuss progress and workload.
Evaluating your company’s processes to see if they allow staff to take a proper lunch break is vital. This simple requirement can often be overlooked, particularly for businesses whose culture may encourage an ‘at-desk’ mentality. Keeping an eye on your staff and making sure they take breaks and are able to switch off when they leave the office will increase productivity in the long run.
If you notice workplace bullying, harassment or new incentives putting undue pressure on staff, take action. Make sure there are sufficient HR policies in place so that staff can resolve issues.
Give praise when praise is due in regular feedback sessions. This will encourage staff who are feeling stressed to continue their hard work and dedication. Being clear about job expectations will also eliminate a degree of uncertainty which may be causing anxiety too.
At Edward Mann, we value the importance of staff who feel supported and encouraged in their work. We have engendered this philosophy in our own offices and would be happy to help you too. Feel free to get in touch if you are looking for tips to support your HR staff in reducing stress in the workplace.
With our database and deep networks within the finance community, we are also able to source high-calibre candidates to suit the specific needs of your business goals to make sure you don’t miss out in the future. We actively look for the most technically proficient candidates and have an international mindset to ensure you get the best possible skillsets to suit your needs.