3 Ways To Help Your Employees Navigate High Stress Work Environments


Consider working at a law firm in which you’ve entered into a high-stress period brought on by a particular assignment or personality or as a salesperson staring at your numbers and fretting over how you’re going to hit that quota for the first time in months. Though neither of these scenarios is pleasant, feeling stress at work is certainly not uncommon. Work-related stress can be chronic or acute and can exist any place pay is earned.

What, Exactly, Is a High-stress Work Area?

Some elements of work-related stress include a heavy workload, long hours, job insecurity or conflicts with colleagues or management. These elements can apply to any task in any industry because, in reality, it can come down to the person as much as it can be about the external variables. 

Granted, though working as an air traffic controller might be more of a grind on your nerves than cashiering at the local market, there are many things about that local market that might apply stress to the employee doing that job. As an owner or manager, in any industry, it’s very much up to you to establish working conditions that relieve stress where and how you can. 

1. Lower the Stakes Without Lowering the Expectations

It stands to reason that a court reporter Bend, Oregon is going to be more focused and ready to perform if they are calm and relaxed. They’ll be less likely to miss important details if they’re not worried about blowing the story or losing their job. The air traffic controller understands what’s at stake when they provide their guidance. Because it’s a high-pressure job, the atmosphere needs to be as relaxed as possible. People don’t need to feel the weight of every decision; they only have to perform as they are expected. 

2. Create an Environment That Decreases Stress

This can be done in many ways. For any team manager looking for ideas for employee retention, establishing and maintaining a space that has elements built-in to minimize stress can be an effective tool. Burnout can occur in any field. It is the phase that people enter after experiencing prolonged stress and the step beyond burnout is resignation. 

One way to alleviate stress is to be absolutely clear with expectations, deadlines and all other logistical-oriented elements of the job. Another is to encourage communication, through formal and informal channels. You can let employees have a say in how their schedules shape up, buy everybody lunch once a week or give out bonuses for exceeding performance standards. 

The most important element of maintaining this environment is that it can stimulate high-order thinking skills like strategy and innovation the same way that a stressful environment can squash them.

3. Set Boundaries Around Work

You want your people focused and executing during business hours, but you also need to help them to recognize the value of shutting their worker-brain off when the work day is done. This boundary-setting can be difficult with remote work happening, which has had a shifting effect on people’s schedules. 

The bottom line here is that folks who keep looking back over their shoulder toward the job are going to spend lots of their time and energy working when they should be balancing themselves with other pursuits. Encouraging people to establish clear lines of demarcation between work and non-work from the top-down can be powerful. Try:

  • No email after a certain hour
  • No calls after a certain hour
  • No expectations after a certain hour

Stress can strike any work environment at any time. As part of a good management team, your goal should be to keep its appearances brief and isolated and occurring with minimal frequency. How you go about it depends on your environment, your style, and your knowledge of your staff. Maintaining stress-free norms could be the difference between a happy workforce and a help-wanted advertisement.

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