1) Biggest Causes
Heavy demands and workload
We all seem to have a sweet spot where our working environment and stress levels are balanced, but we know this is a luxury that’s rarely maintainable. I for one am at my most useless when I have nothing to do, yet I tend to lose focus and fall over when I have way too much to think about. This of course varies from person to person and depends heavily on the mindset of an individual.
Lack of control and/or input
For some, control is everything and others are at their happiest when decisions are made for them. I am somewhere in the middle having to fight my urges to micro-manage people and situations in order to let people succeed or fail on their own merit, but it seems for any high-performance teams having a say and having that say considered is incredibly important and needs to be worked in to any planning or strategy meeting.
Lack of good management
However competent an employee is, if they’re managed badly the negative impact to them and any business is palpable.
Under qualified or inexperienced managers often make similar mistakes and think that simply demanding staff to comply or work faster/harder will pass them off as successful but this is almost never the case.
The most impressive and successful managers I have ever met or worked with spend more time working with their staff to empower them and improve their working practices, encouraging teamwork and knowing when to congratulate (or positively spin any small mistakes made) really brings the best out of people.
Distractions or uncomfortable environments:
What counts as a distraction can be so dependent on the individual and we have tried many layouts and seating arrangements to see which ones work best. Some people thrive with multitasking, comfortably chatting in and amongst tasks, and others require uninterrupted focus.
Ensuring that likeminded people are sat near each other can be very useful from a productivity point of view but you don’t want to create an “us and them” environment.
When I was younger I used to think that Ergonomics was a load of rubbish…until my neck started to creak, and my back started to ache! You spend such a large amount of time at work so good surroundings and equipment is a must to minimise physical discomfort.
Bullying and inappropriate behavior
A lot has changed over the past 50 years (for the better I might add). It’s almost impossible for me to imagine a working environment where bullying and seriously inappropriate behaviour would be acceptable, but sadly some individuals still haven’t quite made it into the same century as the rest of us.
Fortunately, there are many more policies, safeguards and organisations in place to help people who are subjected to such things and long may this continue to improve.
How this generation differs from the previous
“Stiff upper lip and all that, remain stoic, bottle it up and don’t show your emotions” hmmm yeah, those ideals worked out well for previous generations didn’t they!? No obvious fall out there…
Still, although I feel we should aim to be comfortable with the fact that life is actually hard, mental stability isn’t a guarantee nor should it be taken for granted, we do need to find a balance between that and not pandering to people who use and abuse the widely spread terms around mental health to their own advantage.
2) Impacts on your business
As most employers know, the cost of losing an employee isn’t just financial, so losing one through unnecessary stress, especially when it’s a situation that could have been avoided is usually damaging.
Morale and general work force equilibrium can be affected, workloads may have to be divided up and put on the shoulders of fewer people compounding an already difficult situation. Often other employees can become resistant to bringing issues forward as fear and hear say can be increased. Admin and the pressure of urgent recruitment can also lead to bad hiring decisions.
Procedure & Policy overhaul
Although this will undoubtedly affect your admin/HR workload, this has ultimately been a positive for us through the years. There is almost always room for improvement and some of our best additions and changes have been born out of a negative oversite. Prevention is absolutely one of the best approaches.
3) How do you know where someone’s threshold is when there are so many factors to consider?
Spot it early
Everyone has different “tells” and it’s well worth trying to find these before it’s too late. Asking people how they are is a great start and may help create an open dialog between you, your staff, and their colleagues. Otherwise, try to learn someone’s regular behaviour traits and spot when something seems out of place. If you prepare a list of things that can help relieve pressure beforehand then it’s far easier to lean on those in times of need.
There is no real way to pre-empt pressure affecting your staff from an external source, but we believe it’s always worth trying to help wherever reasonable. Despite the fact it’s not directly your responsibility, there is a lot to be said for helping staff when they really need it. Time off, working from home or simply spreading a project between different team members. Providing that breathing space can mean the difference between keeping someone and losing them.
When the threshold is passed
Having experienced this first hand and the impact it could have had on a client, it was important for me not to jump straight to being angry. I quickly realised that the behavior I was witnessing was extremely out of character and for that reason my instinct was probably wrong. Actually, speaking with our team member revealed that the pressure had been mounting for a while and really, it was on me for not spotting this early enough to react. Sometimes the best lessons are hard learned.
4) How to avoid
As much as there will never be a completely foolproof answer we have found that the best way for us has been to try and prevent the levels getting to high in the first place, and should that situation be unavoidable, be as reasonable as we possibly can. This has helped us learn more about our employees, their triggers, their limits and hopefully shows a good level of support that they can rely on us for.
In short, developing a great level of communication, understanding, openness and support has been the best way for us to develop a fantastic and talented team, whilst limiting places to hide should someone ever try it on or take advantage and frankly, actually giving a crap and caring about each other’s well-being is an invaluable benefit to the company and the team alike.
Pete Bird – Watb Creative