Monday, August 28, 2006

Six Fixes For Stressed-Out Workplace

Lately, you feel a palpable sense of stress when you walk into your office. People are tense and not smiling. Nerves are stretched to the breaking point. Everyone operates in marathon mode, getting into the office early, working through lunch, and putting in one late night after another. And yet, despite the jackrabbit pace, important tasks aren’t getting done. That’s not surprising. There is a strong link between stress and lack of productivity—and the problem is more widespread than you might think.
Joanne G. Sujansky is a certified speaking professional, holds a Ph.D. and is founder of the consulting firm, KEYGroup. For more than 25 years she has been helping leaders to increase business growth and profitability by creating and sustaining what she calls a Vibrant Entrepreneurial Organization. She offers these tips for diffusing office stress and ratcheting up productivity:
1. Give people specific, challenging, yet attainable outcomes they are expected to meet.
2. Put systems in place for measuring productivity.
3. Make the workday meaningful. When employees are fully engaged in their work, they’re less likely to perceive intensity as “stress.” They will be motivated and rewarded by their task list rather than feeling oppressed by it. Therefore, make sure to give your employees challenging and meaningful assignments that stimulate and inspire them.
4. Reward employees after they meet a challenge. A positive attitude goes a long way toward managing stress. It helps you maintain a sense of perspective and view problems as challenges, perhaps even motivators.
5. Make employees take lunch breaks, vacations and even mental health days. Do your employees wolf down burgers at their desks while replying to a volley of emails? Do they take work home every night? Do they rack up unused vacation days like interest on a high-yield CD? What’s more, do you commit such stress sins? If you’re rubbing your hands in glee over your employees’ work ethic, you’re contributing to the problem. Insist that they take lunch breaks and vacations. After an all-nighter, give people a spontaneous day off to recharge. And practice what you preach: When people see you working like a Trojan, they feel a not-so-subtle pressure to follow your lead.

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