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Stress Tests

Jessica Buchholz by Jessica Buchholz, Events Coordinator | July 21, 2021
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When you and your staff have better coping strategies, you can avoid burnout

We have all the elements of a perfect stress storm in work places right now. Businesses are understaffed, which places a higher workload on owners, managers, and team members. People are out after being cooped up for a long period, which means the public may be more demanding. Summer weather has people thinking about a lot of things other than work. Child care is in short supply, so scheduling uncertainty for families is straining home life. The new Delta variant is here. Back to school is just a month away. And, many of you have clearly stated that dealing with the general public these days is… interesting.
Stress in the workplace isn’t something you can ignore. It has a tendency to build up and then pop like an over inflated balloon. When stress explodes in the workplace, the negative consequences can be significant and long lasting, but there are some coping and planning mechanisms that you can use to decrease stress while remaining productive. The following are a few strategies and things to remember to pass your workplace stress test.
Be honest and transparent when communicating that work can sometimes be stressful.- If a workplace was a super happy fun time all the time, you wouldn’t have to pay people to come to work. Painting a realistic picture of the highs and lows of the overall environment and daily activities helps people mentally prepare for what they might encounter. If you talk about your workplace as “fun and high energy” but don’t cover some of the interactions and expectations that are less fun and sap energy, you set unrealistic expectations for you workplace.
The good idea fairy may have to sprinkle some “doing” pixie dust on themselves.- A lot of different work places have the “idea guy” that wants to throw out ideas for someone else to execute. In normal work environments, that’s just annoying. In short staffed work environments, throwing out ideas without direct involvement and identified resources to generate implementation can be infuriating. Leadership in stressful situations is “shoulder to shoulder” working together to make things better through shared work.
Allow for intermittent mental breaks.- Restaurants are famous for staff members needing to “grab something from the walk in cooler” (code for screaming in a fairly sound proof room after dealing with a member of the public). Creating a timer in a quiet space to allow for a mental disconnected space, or encouraging a brisk “walk around the block” can reset your brain and get you back into the workflow quickly.
Recognize staff that make your work environment better.- Meaningful staff recognition is critical to any positive work environment, but in stressful times it is absolutely imperative. Think about those special things that you do for staff during the holidays. Now would be a good time to roll out some of those “feel good” activities for your team.
Check your work space.- Comfort, ease of movement, and safety are huge influencers of stress. The less comfortable your environment is, the more likely you are to have a stressed out team. For some businesses that have staff working in a hot kitchen or outdoors in the ever changing Kansas elements this can be tough, so remember that making something comfortable is a relative term that is defined by your staff. An outdoor crew may need water, but water in a cooler with ice makes the environment much more comfortable. A workplace that requires staff members to stay on their feet all day may benefit from some floor pad areas. Communicate with your staff about the work environment and make necessary changes. If your staff sees that you are making an effort to help improve their comfort/well being, stress levels will drop.
Listen and act.- Remember our over inflated balloon analogy? One of the ways you can prevent that balloon from popping is to let the air out. In real world terms, that means you should listen to your team. However, you need to set a standard that listening leads to action to improve the situation. Griping for the sake of griping can lead to a persistent negative work environment. Communicating with the goal of achieving understanding and making necessary adjustments can destress a team.
Implement strategies to turn a collection of “me’s” into a functioning “we”. – The United States is the land of individualism. Getting people to buy into shared sacrifice is not simple, but it is critical to decrease stress. Forming team goals, recognizing team achievements, and empowering teams to improve the workplace can decrease stress. Right now, businesses are offering bonuses to staff members that help land employees that last for a predetermined amount of time (building up the team). Team social activities as rewards, or team decisions to help a local social cause can empower collective support among your staff.
Make time off count.- Creating a clear mental break between work and everything outside of work means that you have to find things you enjoy doing outside of work (and actually do them). No, that doesn’t mean you need to fly to Cabo every time you have a day off, but you could head out to a beach at a local lake. You probably can’t head off to Disneyland every week with family, but you could stop by our beautiful local zoo. Whatever helps you get into your happy place, find a local equivalent. Coach your team members to do the same.
Start your day off right.- People that carry stress into work often have less capacity to deal with additional stress at work. Work on a positive pre-work routine. Does your route into work infuriate you in the morning (other drivers can be… not great)? Choose a different route. Rushed to get ready in the morning? Lay your clothes out the night before. Overthinking everything as you are heading into work? Create a play list of your favorite songs that you can listen to before you head in. The point is to create a better frame of mind before you engage a work day.
Gain a bit of perspective.- Work is an important part of life, but it’s not your entire life. Compartmentalizing so that work stress doesn’t bleed over into other areas of your life is important. We are all human, so it’s natural for work and life to cross over a bit, but taking a breath and letting yourself consciously know that work is over (time for family) or that play time is over, and it’s time for work can discourage stress from one area of your life from crossing over into another area. If you have friends and family that you can talk to, they can help set that distinction and aid in destressing your life, but make sure that you reciprocate when the people in your life need to destress.
Exemplify the attitude you want in your environment.- Actions always speak louder than words. If you want a better work environment, it has to start with you. Stressful things can and will happen in any work environment and often those situations are outside of your control. How you react to stress is inside your control, and serves as a model for how those around you will react to stress (good or bad).
You can’t execute everything we mentioned at once. Break things up and prioritize things that you can do to get a little bit better today. Over time, your stress level can decrease, and you will have a better work environment.
#Organization

About the Author

Jessica Buchholz, Events Coordinator

Jessica Buchholz is the Community Development Coordinator for Emporia Main Street in Emporia, Kansas. She specializes in event planning, volunteer recruitment, alternative marketing, media/public relations and fundraising. During Jessica's tenure at Emporia Main Street, she has helped grow events to an international level and she has created a series of new activities to meet organizational goals.

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