Merge's Blog

Help your employees manage their workplace stress

As a leader, one of your roles is to ensure that you create a work environment in which your employees are healthy and productive and able to get things done.  My guest blogger today is my professional colleague, stress and wellness specialist, Beverly Beuermann-King, CSP.  In today’s post, she tells us about stress smarts for leaders, specifically the S-O-S principle, a practical way for leaders to help manage stress both in their employees as well as themselves.

Our jobs provide more than just an income.  It is a significant portion of our identity. It can determine our self-worth, our accomplishments, and successes. It is not surprising then that many Canadians experience an enormous amount of stress from their workplace. In fact, Canadians reported that they are feeling more stressed and more overwhelmed by their jobs than they have in previous years. Pessimism, dissatisfaction, lowered concentration, accidents, absenteeism, and poor health are all symptoms of job stress. And all of these have a negative impact on the corporate bottom-line.   Managing stress just makes good business sense.

The top 6 sources of workplace stress are:

  • job dissatisfaction,
  • physical conditions,
  • work overload or underload,
  • scheduling,
  • unclear demands or lack of control,
  • and job security.

If you’re a leader, once the sources of stress have been clearly identified, you can employ some simple strategies to help your people.  Matching appropriate and positive coping strategies to differing sources of stress can help to decrease the stress felt by the employee and reduce the negative impact on the company.  But … it can be very difficult to figure out which stress management strategies to implement or what type of wellness program to create.  The S-O-S Principle can help. S-O-S stands for Situation, Ourself and Support.  We need a variety of strategies in each of these categories to ensure that we have enough “tools” in our tool belt to deal with the stressors that we face.

S – Situation

Knowing what sources of stress your team faces enables you to problem solve these sources directly.  If it is work overload or unclear demands within the job, a leader can work with the team to ensure that the work is distributed fairly, that deadlines are reasonable, that job expectations are clear, that priority lists are defined and that the employee is able to be a part of this problem solving process.  If it is around the physical conditions of the job, the leader may review the health and safety policies, look at ergonomic solutions, or get rid of things such as clutter or distractions.

O – Ourself

Stressful or draining periods should be followed by relaxing and energy restoring phases.  These techniques should be focused directly on personal well-being including eating well, adequate sleep, developing hobbies, partaking in regular exercise and finding balance.  A team leader can help to implement these type of strategies by ensuring that adequate breaks are taken, vacation time is used, that experts are brought in to teach these skills or that work-life programs such as telecommuting or flex hours are implemented.

S – Support

Support is critical in dealing with stressful situations.  We need to know that we can reach out to others for help and that we are not alone in coping.  A leader can be a primary source of support.  Support can be built up within teams by implementing team lunches and social celebrations.  Team building strategies are a necessity not only for building a “team”of employees who can work together, but also for decreasing the isolation and disconnection that your employees may face.  These efforts help to boost communication and promote sharing of ideas and strategies.  Support can also be shown by ensuring confidentiality, connecting them to an Employee Assistance Program or to community organizations that specialize in everything from heart disease to caring for an elderly parent.

But, it’s not just about the team.  It is just as important that leaders take steps to protect their own mental and physical health.  Each leader should develop and review his/her own S-O-S Plan.  How are you taking care of your own stressful situations?  How are you ensuring that you keep yourself healthy while working through your stress?  Who are you reaching out to during these stressful times?

By specifically addressing the challenges, by utilizing strategies to maintain your health and by building a supportive network, you can more effectively preserve your wellness as well as that of your team.  Stress management is not complicated, but it is not always easy. The S-O-S Principle can help you to develop the right plan for you and your team.

Beverly Beuermann-King translates current research and best practices information into a realistic, accessible and practical approach through her dynamic stress and wellness workshops, on-line articles, e-newsletters and media interviews.  Visit to learn more about Beverly and her services.

So what are you doing to create a healthy and productive work environment and to help your people manage their stress?  Or perhaps you’d care to share your perspective on a workplace where no one seems to care how stressed their employees are?  Talk to me!

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