Managing Stress in Your Workplace

How do you manage stress at Diamond?

At Diamond Logistics, we work in a business where demand can fluctuate from 70% of capacity to 150% DAILY and everything needs urgent attention so stress levels can go through the roof. We work on 30 minute collections times and to the minute deadlines and the urgency of a delivery can make it very stressful when things don’t go to plan.

Its important to keep breaks regular and make sure a good laugh is had. Never under estimate the productivity of a happy office. Keep communication 100% open with clients and team members to keep clarity and always under promise and over deliver to save unnecessary stress. Exceeding clients expectations wins praise rather than palpitations!

Firstly – how stress in handled in a company is cultural. Poor management can imbibe its team with unnecessary stress. I absolutely question the necessity to run high stress level businesses. Excellence in performance DOES NOT have to mean unhealthy stress levels. Calm is efficient.

Looking at stress management in the business must be a policy that incorporates every element from recruitment to maintenance to training and review. Recruit appropriately for job roles – ensure people understand the importance of high level performance and when stuff goes wrong, as it sometimes does, make sure it’s a learning culture so the first mistake is a learning opportunity (as long as it’s not mission critical) – its repeat mistakes only that become problematic. And remember some people will handle stress well, others won’t. It will be in their nature.

Have you seen stress levels change in your workforce during the recession and if so, what have you done as a company to address the issue?

Recession has brought about money worries – for businesses and employees – which in turn has increased pressure on individual’s to be accountable for productivity and output. This kind of focus is not a bad thing at all, just prudent.

Corporate redundancies have afforded us a great opportunity to recruit great candidates who were grateful for a change of culture after the stress of a corporate work place that they had often been made redundant from . Small companies rely heavily on each member being productive so scrutiny is felt.

So we had to go to great lengths to reassure all team members that stability would be there as long as they fulfilled their jobs well – lots of emphasis on SAFETY of position, and SECURITY and REWARD, in the medium term.

What are the tell-tell signs of staff being overstressed and how can you avoid it going further?

Internal focus, lack of interaction, small slips ups, general demeanour and body language (head down, eyes down). Or the opposite end of the spectrum is snappy temper, defensiveness and less than rational response to critique.

To address this its really important to break state. Get them out of the environment, address stress cause, put plan in place to deal with it. They also need to break down the cause of stress – is it real, is it imaginary, is it just perceived? Using a CBT style analysis can massively assist in reducing stress to a more proportionate level.

Can stress be positive?

Totally agree – positive pressure brings out amazing performance. Deadlines and goals and the ensuing pressure makes our team here thrive. But too much and the effect is counterproductive – it takes steady management!

How to do avoid stress in start up businesses.?

Make sure you are well capitalised so you can fund nil income for 3 – 6 months. And spend all your time doing sales to fund your cash in the future – nothing more stressful than the phone not ringing or orders not coming in.

Key limiters to stress in the work place

  • Make sure people know what is expected of them
  • Monitor and feedback
  • Empower team to make decision to elevate stress
  • Keep atmosphere positive and productive
  • Encourage 360 criticism as being performance enhancing not critical
  • Feedback constructively
  • Praise generously and authentically
  • Be fair
  • Have fun

How do you limit stress in the work place?

Our working hours are long – I make no bones about it – and the Ops team often have 24 hour phones too. That’s transport for you. As for offices you need to make sure people have quiet spaces to go to when they need to ‘do stuff’ rather than answer calls etc – distractions don’t help stress levels when you are on a deadline. A uniform stops people having to think about what to wear and its very levelling which is important. Little things like fresh fruit, Fish and Chip Fridays and birthday cake and anniversary celebrations seem to help too.

As for recruiting choose a good fit and enthusiasm over skills (you can teach skills) and don’t make the decision alone – one man’s perfect recruit may be another’s worse nightmare. And sometimes you just don’t see it!

Has anyone found that 3rd sector and CSR initiatives have improved employee wellbeing?

We have an ongoing 21 in 21 campaign which benefits local charities nominated by our team and clients. We also do a few team events – Bolt the Holt for example – which is both positively contributing and team building. The ensuing photos certainly keep the laughter level high in the office the week after!

I think it helps in a holistic well being way as opposed to being directly stress combative (particularly if stress incurred is causal rather than cultural in origin).

What causes most stress for owners and managers?

Finance and HR!