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Positive steps for a stress-free workforce

As a manager your main goal should be to help people feel confident in their role, and make them believe that they have the capacity to contribute, grow and develop within the organisation, writes Rachael Woodman

According to recent research, the last twelve months have seen stress levels across the country reach an all time high, costing the UK economy an estimated £25.9 billion per year. Another report, from the charity, Mind, has suggested that the numbers of people reporting having left a job due to stress rose from 6% in 2004 to 8% in 2009. But with increased working hours, significant financial pressures and the continued threat of job losses - are these statistics really surprising?

In the light of these figures, legal recruitment specialists Sellick Partnership recommend that employers need to consider the impact of these pressures on their workforce and how they can ensure that they retain a healthy, productive and motivated team, particularly through periods of change. Additionally if a number of redundancies have been made within the organisation, it is important for you to restore and maximise trust within the workplace.

For an employer there are a number of strategies that can be implemented to help increase productivity, boost morale and promote long-term cost efficiencies. They include:

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Communication is always key; however it is particularly important during periods of change and adjustment. Management teams need to be consistent and open in the messages that they are communicating to teams, ensuring that employees are clear and up to date on activity and performance. Strong internal communication can have a significant impact on morale, as it makes employees feel part of the team – contributing to the future of the company. Additionally communication provides reassurance, which in turn will increase motivation.

Through regular reviews, team meetings and internal communication, all employees should be assured by the management team, as well as providing a consultative approach within the workplace. Employees need to be able to feel that they are listened too – and that there is a channel for them to offload any concerns they may have.

Career development

Take the time to have a discussion about career development with each of the people that report to you, as it will help identify the additional training, resources and support that they feel they need. This will enable you to assess their expectations, as well as assure them of their value within the business, removing any doubts they may have regarding job security.

Restoring trust

Trust will have been injured during a downsizing; staff must be assured of their value. Firstly, recognise that people are experiencing a loss of their co-workers and will experience a range of emotions from anger and loss to guilt at having been chosen to remain within the organisation. It is important to be sympathetic to their position and facilitate the transition from the past to a new focus on the future.


As budgets get tighter, staff morale and retention is more important than ever. As a result many employers are turning to teambuilding to get the best out of their employees. Bringing an organisation together for a well-planned team-building event not only improves internal relations but can also provide employees with reassurance for the future. Additionally, time out of the office is the perfect opportunity to present your strategy and motivate staff for the year ahead.

Some stress is good as it motivates people and makes them stronger. However, in the current climate it is very easy for that stress to become too much and have a detrimental impact on productivity and ultimately your profitability, so it is key that employers and managers address the above factors.

Look after your own health

From the other side, it is also important to think about yourself and your health; it is very easy to get caught up thinking about those individuals around you and forgetting about yourself. You need to take the time to step back and assess the situation – and adopt some strategies to help you.

There are a number of areas that you can change to relieve stress at work. Time management is often something that you can easily lose control of, which can be readdressed very quickly. For example, write a ‘to do’ list for the following day, re-prioritising your tasks, and identifying those that can be delegated to others in your team.

Do you often get to the end of your day and realise that you have not had any fresh air? Taking breaks away from your role are important – and going outside for a stroll can make a massive difference to how you feel. If this isn’t always possible, adopt some deep breathing relaxation exercises that you can do at your desk, or take the time to catch up with colleagues – laughter is always a good stress reliever!

The time that you spend out of work, can also make a difference to how you feel in work – take regular exercise, catch up friends and get plenty of rest.

Rachael Woodman is a manager in the Sellick Partnership Legal Division.

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