How SME owners can help employees reduce stress in the workplace

Stress has been described as the smoking of our generation, costing the Australian economy more than $15B per year in work absenteeism and lost productivity. 73 per cent of Australian workers are stressed about work and many are turning to their employers to find a solution; 85 per cent of workers believe that employers should create an environment that proactively addresses stress in the workplace.

Over 20 years in psychology and organisational communications, I’ve seen first-hand the impact of stress on people, their employers and companies at large. Sadly, whilst organisations have visibility of the huge impact, the rate of change, let alone prevention, remains stagnant. Many small to medium businesses, however, are in a better position to be able to impact change. With greater agility and flexibility, small to medium businesses are better able to implement new practices and technology to help their employees.

I left corporate Australia in 2016 when it became clear the solution to our stress epidemic needed to come from outside. I set up my own small business to provide companies with guidance on how to address these issues using technology and this is where Pioneera was born.

Through our partnership with SheStarts, we’ve been trialling Pioneera in ANZ Australia’s corporate offices to help manage staff stress levels. We’ve gained some great insights from this trial that are transferable from an enterprise to small to medium businesses and their owners.

I never expected to be running a start-up but it’s the best vehicle to solve this looming health crisis and I’ve learnt a lot along the way. Here are some of my tips to other SME owners on how to manage stress within their workplaces:

  1. Monitor and manage workloads: Be aware of what your team members are working on and how much they may have on their plate. Encourage your team members to speak up at an early stage if they are feeling overwhelmed so they can seek guidance.
  2. Don’t be afraid to address the hard topics: Encourage a culture of open communication about mental health and wellbeing so employees know that it’s OK to talk about stress at work, and assure them that it isn’t a sign of weakness to ask for help.
  3. Provide your team with emotional and mental health support tools: Whether it’s embracing new technology or providing a physical meditation room, having tools freely available to help employee de-stress shows that you are dedicated to their well-being.
  4. Lead by example: Show your team how to look after themselves by looking after yourself. Seeking and acting on employee input can also help boost morale within the team. It will also stimulate employees to develop ideas and suggestions for personal and organisational improvement.
  5. Provide regular performance feedback: Provide feedback as often as you can and be sure to not only focus on areas of improvement. Celebrating the seemingly small achievements with your team can help them feel more fulfilled in their role and reduce unnecessary stress.

Danielle Owen Whitford, Founder, Pioneera

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