How can you as a leader or manager help your employees reduce and control the level of stress they experience?

Here are four actions you can take:

  1. Gain an understanding of the stress process.
  2. Create a culture and environment in which the discussion of mental health issues such as stress is encouraged.
  3. Remove stressors from the work environment or change the work environment so that situations, people, things are no longer perceived as threats.
  4. Help individuals to develop the skills necessary to reduce and control the level of stress they experience.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these recommended actions:

1 Learn about the stress process.
Knowledge is power” ~ Sir Francis Bacon (1597)
Understanding how we ‘do’ stress will help you as a leader/manager to:
a) understand and recognise stress in yourself and others.
b) promote wellbeing at work and improve your skills and confidence in dealing with employee stress. You will to need to gain an understanding of your organisation’s policies, processes, wellbeing resources and how to provide basic emotional support.
c) identify the ‘stressors’ in the work environment. A ‘stressor’ is an event, person, thing that is perceived by the majority of people to be a threat to their physical and/or emotional well-being. Work related stressors include: long working hours, intense demands, difficult bosses/co-workers and poor/dangerous working conditions

One way to identify work-related stressors is to survey your employees. Simply ask them what they believe is causing them to experience stress.

d) spot the signs of stress in your staff and provide emotional support. Look in particular for changes in a person’s mood or behaviour, such as deteriorating relationships with colleagues, irritability, indecisiveness, absenteeism or reduced performance. An increase in use of holiday and/or sick leave can be a sign that an individual is stressed.
Click here to read my E-zine article The STRESS Process – How We Create Anxiety and Stress
2. Create a culture and environment in which the discussion of mental health issues such as stress is encouraged
a) Research suggests that around half (48%) of people suffering from mental health conditions such as anxiety and stress feel too uncomfortable to talk to their employer about their experience.

So as an employer it’s important to create a safe and comfortable environment in which awareness of mental health issues such as anxiety and stress is raised, discussed and conversations about these issues, between individuals and their manager, or a member of the human resources team, is encouraged.

b) In order to successfully create and implement a culture of wellbeing and engagement within your organisation, every leader/manager must be recruited as a champion and ambassador. It’s important that individuals across the organisation see that their leaders and managers believe in, and ‘walk the talk’ when it comes to, stress management. For example leaders and managers must demonstrate a commitment to activities that help reduce stress e.g. by not working excessive hours, by taking breaks, by being physically active.
c) Encourage wellbeing – whether you encourage employees to go for a walk at lunchtime, provide healthy food alternatives or encourage wellbeing activities such as mindfulness, they are each a positive step towards improving mental health in the workplace.
3. Remove stressors from the environment or change the environment so that situations, people, things are no longer perceived as threats
When it comes to stress, prevention is much better than cure. Here are some suggestions (provided by the UK’s Health & Safety Executive) for how to address six key work related stressors:
a) Excessive demands.

  • the organisation provides employees with adequate and achievable demands in relation to the agreed hours of work;
  • people’s skills and abilities are matched to the job demands;
  • jobs are designed to be within the capabilities of employees; and
  • employees’ concerns about their work environment are addressed in a timely manner.
b) Lack of autonomy.

  • where possible, employees have control over their pace of work;
  • employees are encouraged to use their skills and initiative to do their work;
  • where possible, employees are encouraged to develop new skills to help them undertake new and challenging pieces of work;
  • the organisation encourages employees to develop their skills;
  • employees have a say over when breaks can be taken; and
  • employees are consulted over their work patterns.
c) Lack of support.

  • the organisation has policies and procedures to adequately support employees;
  • systems are in place to enable and encourage managers to support their staff;
  • systems are in place to enable and encourage employees to support their colleagues;
  • employees know what support is available and how and when to access it;
  • employees know how to access the required resources to do their job; and
  • employees receive regular and constructive feedback
d) Unacceptable behaviours, e.g. bullying at work.

  • the organisation promotes positive behaviours at work to avoid conflict and ensure fairness;
  • employees share information relevant to their work;
  • the organisation has agreed policies and procedures to prevent or resolve unacceptable behaviour;
  • systems are in place to enable and encourage managers to deal with unacceptable behaviour; and
  • systems are in place to enable and encourage employees to report unacceptable behaviour.
e) Unclear roles and responsibilities.

  • the organisation ensures that, as far as possible, the different requirements it places upon employees are compatible;
  • the organisation provides information to enable employees to understand their role and responsibilities;
  • the organisation ensures that, as far as possible, the requirements it places upon employees are clear; and
  • systems are in place to enable employees to raise concerns about any uncertainties or conflicts they have in their role and responsibilities.
f) Change.

  • the organisation provides employees with timely information to enable them to understand the reasons for proposed changes;
  • the organisation ensures adequate employee consultation on changes and provides opportunities for employees to influence proposals;
  • employees are aware of the probable impact of any changes to their jobs. If necessary, employees are given training to support any changes in their jobs;
  • employees are aware of timetables for changes; and
  • employees have access to relevant support during changes e.g. counselling, training
4. Help your employees to develop the skills necessary to reduce and control the level of stress they experience
a) Train your employees so they have the skills to recognise the signs, symptoms, causes and effects of stress.
b) Provide employees with the opportunity to enhance these skills and capabilities:

  • Time management
  • Assertiveness
  • Decision making
  • Delegation
  • Conflict management
c) Raise awareness of your organisation’s policies and procedures in relation to stress
d) Provide employees with resilience training so they are better able to cope with and overcome the stress they are experiencing
e) Provide employees with support services such as access to employee assistance programmes, coaches, counsellors that are:

  • anonymous
  • confidential
  • available during work hours and out of hours

These services must be effectively communicated to all employees and managers should actively promote the use of such services. Services could include:

  • childcare services
  • flexible working arrangements
  • family leave policies
  • employee assistance programmes; or
  • fitness programmes.

What Next?

Helping people to reduce stress and gain control over their stress level is my passion. If you’d like to explore how I can help you or your employees to become calmer, more productive and healthier, let’s have a chat. Contact me now on 021 056 8389 or email me at

Wishing you a relaxed, stress less, Easter weekend.
Go well

Tony helps individuals to harness the power of their mind to achieve success and well-being in life, work and business. Tony’s particular area of expertise is in helping people perform under pressure and gain freedom from worry, anxiety and stress. Tony’s solution focused approach to coaching uses a range of techniques drawn from the fields of co-active coaching, hypnosis, positive psychology and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).

Contact Tony today to discuss how he can help you, or if you think Tony could help someone you know, you might like to encourage them to get in touch with him.