1. I normally take all work challenges in my stride. But with all this talk of recession, I am getting more stressed than usual. Is this normal? How can I reduce the stress levels that I am experiencing at my work place?
Yes, it is perfectly natural to feel more anxious than usual in such times. However, determine the exact cause of your stress. Is it workplace rumours of job cuts, lack of communication from the leadership or the hype by media about economy woes? Try to put the negatives into the right perspective. Differentiate between things under your control and those that you cannot influence at all. Focus on the aspects under your control.
Exploring your situation with experts could ease your fears. If required consult a financial planner who can help you plan for your financial security. Talk to recruitment consultants or successful professionals in your field of work to know what you need to work on to develop your career. When you know you can handle whatever comes your way you will automatically worry less about it.
Ticking off items from your ‘to do list in meeting long term objectives’ will help you feel you are getting somewhere and in control of your work life. That sense of accomplishment and control can act as a powerful stress reducer. If you don’t have a list, make one. Think about all the small, incremental things you can do to build career success over the course of a year, or five years; subscribing to a newsletter, attending a networking conference, practicing your presentation skills etc. Don’t focus only on the short term!
Take time off now and then to relax. Get into the habit of taking a few minutes several times a day to consciously manage stress. Do some stretching or slow breathing. Take a short walk. Chat with a colleague. And don’t forget the popular stress buster - a tea break. Figure out what works for you. Keeping in shape by taking daily walks and maintaining regular sleep and eating patterns is similarly important to reduce stress levels. Maintain healthy food habits. This will have a positive effect on your stress responses. Being physically fit is essential for you to be emotionally strong and mentally alert during trying times.
I think primarily it is your attitude to stress causing factors that matter. Look for the positives in your professional and personal life and actively build on them- it helps to maintain a positive attitude. With these I am sure you will be able to continue taking all your work challenges in your stride like you usually do.
2. Morale is low currently among employees and as the HR team member, I would like to do something about it. However since the recession has hit our company’s revenues quite badly, it will be difficult to get a budget approved for such activities. Can you suggest a few low cost measures to improve morale among employees?
There are lots ways by which you can improve employee morale. In fact the money spent is only one of the ingredients for increasing morale of employees. With a little creativity and lots of determination and sustained efforts, you can improve your employee morale. For starters get the managers of all employees to thank and praise their team members for their specific contributions. Employees prefer instant and personalized recognition from their immediate boss more than any other kind of workplace motivation. Sounds simple right? But you would be surprised how many managers neglect doing this. Formalize a program whereby managers regularly hand out commendations. Also ensure public recognition of exemplary work. Bulletin boards, company-wide emails, newsletters and meetings are different mediums for the same. You can even supplement it with inexpensive tokens of appreciation.
Employees are also more likely to become engaged in their work if they know their bosses are listening to them. Listening implies caring. Sensitize managers to this aspect and encourage managers to regularly move out of their desks and chat with employees. In addition to listening, companies should frequently communicate with their employees to help employees better understand department and company wide actions, increasing efficiency and encouraging team building.
Another cost-effective way to energize employees is by soliciting suggestions from employees, showing that their ideas are valued. So ask for suggestions related to the recession related measures being taken by the company, be it cost cutting or improving revenue streams. The more valued employees feel, the more likely they will display high morale. Another morale booster is getting employees involved in implementing the suggestions made.
Offering lots of autonomy and authority is another excellent way. Freedom fosters creativity, resourcefulness and a sense of ownership, and it establishes a foundation of mutual trust and respect. Discuss with managers on how they can be clear about job assignments and their expectations from team members, while also being open and flexible as to how the team members achieve results. The tough part is to get the managers to then start providing more autonomy and authority to their subordinates.
Finally, there is the good old “introducing the fun element” to work place. Formalize fun events that do not cost much. Some good examples are creating friendly competitions between employees and departments, providing employees the opportunity to showcase their talents, bring your pet/child/spouse to Work Day, get-to-know-your-colleague exercises, funny awards ceremony etc.
All the best and do write to us about how you improved (note we are not saying “if you”) the employee morale in your company. We would love to hear all about it.