How having clear and open communication in the workplace can reduce stress

Stress affects the body and mind causing symptoms such as headache, low mood, anxiety, lack of sleep, fatigue, and upset stomach, the effects of long-term stress include contributing to heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.

Workplace stress is now the most common form of work-related illness according to surveys from the HSE. 12.5 million work days were lost due to work related stress, anxiety or depression in 2016/17.

So, the question is, how can we stop this? How can workers become happy and relaxed within their jobs, and reduce absence?

Most important for stress management is communication, helping to build good relationships. Talk about what is causing stress, talk about what is good. Without open, clear communication, it is impossible to know where any problems are, and impossible to know what to change in order to fix them.

Tips to encourage successful communication at work

1. Be “communication friendly”

Talk to each other! It sounds really obvious, but in a world where speed is valued over personal interaction, taking the time to stop and talk in person can change the entire atmosphere, and by being able to talk easily about the little things, the bigger things are easier to either discuss, or stop before they become bigger things. Fewer emails, and more face to face conversations is the way to go.

If you have an “open door” policy, try to be literal about that and have your door open whenever possible.

2. Be consistent and constant

A review every 6–12 months saves time, but again, doesn’t open communication in a valuable way. By having a scheduled chat once a month you can stay on top of how things are with employees, get frequent feedback, and see what is working or not working within a timeframe that allows for regular reassessment.

3. Have group meetings

A weekly group meeting where questions and concerns can be discussed, and the week ahead can be shared allows everyone to feel engaged and have a sense of belonging. If people are uncomfortable talking to the group, questions and concerns can always be sent in via post-it notes or a note site, so that the issues are still raised, but without the focus on any one person.

4. Listen

There is no point in trying to encourage people to talk more without learning how to listen effectively.

Allow periods of silence whilst talking, give people space to speak, but also to think and reflect.

Be present. If you’re checking your watch or on your phone, they will close up and not talk as they will feel that you are not interested.

Repeat what you feel the person is saying. By repeating it you can show that you are listening, but also that you are understanding what they say. Don’t just parrot their words back to them but rephrase in the way you have understood them.

5. Be true

When you communicate, be honest. Don’t say what you think the other person wants to hear. At the same time, don’t assume that how you think, and feel is the only “right” way. Give others the space to think and feel what they see as true too.

6. Offer anonymous feedback

When people are worried or stressed, talking about what is causing the problem can seem overwhelming. They worry that it will affect how they are perceived, that it will offend someone else, or that a complaint may be interpreted in a personal light. With that in mind, providing some sort of platform for anonymous feedback is essential for providing the space and safety to communicate.

Does your workplace have effective communication? Do you have any tips that we can add to make things less stressful?

Sources: 1, 2

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