Whether you are leading change or caught up in changes that are happening in the workplace, you will likely to need to deal with the effects of these changes within either yourself or your colleagues and leaders.
Stress and anxiety will always raise its head somewhere during the change management process and can have a huge impact on staff, the change process and the likely success of the outcome, so having an effective plan to handle and manage any likely stress issues in advance can avoid complete derailment.
Supporting Those Who Are Stressed
Whatever the reasons are for change, supporting people through change is a critical part of change. A company that accepts dealing with the stresses caused to their employees by change, whether it is a simple as an office reorganisation or the potential loss of jobs through downsizing, acknowledging that it is going to affect people. Where people are affected there is always the possibility that there will be someone who will struggle with it.
Managing stress within employees of an organisation should be a constant process. A company that acknowledges stress and anxiety exist, even when no change is happening and has an open door policy for workers, will be better placed when a change does become necessary. Employees within organisations who already feel supported and acknowledged if they are having a tough time and who know that approaching to ask for help when they are suffering will not lead to a black mark against them will allow for a better and happier working environment.
Prevention is better than cure, thereby helping individuals recognise the effects of stress and creating a work environment that helps overcome it and does not dismiss or belittle it will see benefits in productivity, performance and a better attitude within the working environment.
Minimising stress in the workplace.
Employers and organisations should be proactive, give warning, and not leave it until the last minute to announce change. You may not be able to divulge all the details, but saying what you can as early as you can will receive a far better response. Remove the need for speculation, rumours and gossip, as invariably someone will have an inclination and false or back door information can be incredibly damaging. Even if correct information leaks, it undermines management when they eventually disclose. Give employees time to adapt, those that know the facts, even when bad for them, will suffer less stress, than a change thrust on them with little notice.
You should also ensure you keep lines of communication open throughout the change process; it is important to keep your employees feeling that they still have a job to do. Where possible allow them a task within the change, no matter how small, foster their sense of ownership within the situation. Ensure that all staff know who to approach if they need assistance when they feel overwhelmed, hold regular meetings both with groups and individuals to keep staff updated. You may need to work to stop the spread of negativity, and redirect focus onto positive aspects of the change. Other tips include showing appreciation and sharing successes of the business. The more positive an overall environment, the less stress will creep in and derail the process.
You may find using the services of a Change Management consultant is an effective way to ensure that any changes within your organisation are handled sensitively. It is the role of a Change Management Specialist to ensure that delivery of change is sensitive to employees’ needs, protects their mental health and to reduce stress throughout the process. They are people experts and can be the difference between success and failure in terms of the staff and management coping with a change.
The Health and Safety Executive offer a talking-toolkit for employers to recognise and deal with stress within their employees, with the aim of preventing and reducing the effects on staff, managers and ultimately the business.
What can you do to reduce stress?
Employees should be encouraged to take responsibility for their own happiness, and look to themselves for solutions in the long-term. Feeling in control of their stress means they will be able to handle it better should they feel stressed in the future.
You should therefore encourage your team to look for the potential positives of any change themselves. Acknowledge that whilst there may be negatives, change is coming and asking them to find the positives will help reduce negativity and the stress it brings. You could also let your team know that embracing the change and looking to assist with it could have a positive impact on their role, and their ability to move forward within the company should this be an option. Empowering your team by letting them help with change will help them feel more supported and involved, which could reduce stress.
Be prepared for the fact that some of your team members may need to take some time out or maybe follow some simple self-help techniques. It may be that scheduling an extra tea break or a few minutes downtime, to breathe, relax and refocus can ward off a sense of becoming overwhelmed. Perhaps a social gathering with colleagues at lunchtime can lift a mood. A negative attitude from change leaders will pile stress on employees, which you do not need, instead spread an optimistic outlook, stay upbeat and open minded, and surround yourself with others who wish to be the same.
Whatever changes there are to your work environment, you and your team need to survive it emotionally. The situation may indeed be stressful, but stress will ultimately damage a person’s health, their working ability and will pile more pressure and problems, which will only make matters far worse in time. Understanding stress and how to cope with it yourself will put you in a far better position to support other employees who may be at risk of suffering the same.