Everyone in a work environment experiences work stress at some point in their lives. Small amounts of stress are good. They can push you to meet a new challenge or face a deadline. However, continuous or chronic stress can become overwhelming and is harmful to your physical and mental health.
As employers, we have an obligation to look after the wellbeing of our employees. On a basic, human level, we want to look after the people we work with and ensure they are okay. From a business stance, workplace stress causes a dip in productivity, low morale and increased absences.
Working in the pet sitting industry brings its own unique challenges. Though working with animals is a wonderful experience, it isn’t without its problems. We’ve all been stuck in traffic, trying desperately to get to the next appointment. And meanwhile, we’re hoping that the client’s beloved pooch can wait until we arrive before going to the toilet. And we’ve all looked at the next day’s schedule and wonder how on earth we’re going to fit it all in. And, of course, there are the pets themselves. We worry about their stress and fretting when their owners are away. It’s a big responsibility looking after someone’s pet and being responsible for their home’s security etc. Sometimes that burden weighs heavily. When your job is busy and pressured, healthy stress can turn into burnout.
Common Reasons For Work Stress
The following reasons are often cited as a factor in work stress. It is not an exhaustive list by any means, but these are some of the common stressors:
Mounting or excessive workloads
Lack of managerial support
Lack of social support within the organization
Work that isn’t fulfilling
Lack of opportunities for career development or advancement
Lack of control over own schedule and workload
Changes to policy or processes
Effects Of Stress
If stress is left untreated, it can cause serious harm to physical and mental health. It can lead to many illnesses including depression, anxiety, and heart disease. It is also associated with headaches, stomach pain, insomnia, and difficulty concentrating.
What Employers Can Do
Employers face their own struggles and challenges at work and are not immune from stress. It is just as likely to affect you as your staff, if not more so. There are several steps you can take to deal with and combat stress for yourself and your employees.
1. Manage Workload
One of the main workplace stressors is an overwhelming workload. There are several steps you can take to manage this. The first thing to look at is whether staff can fulfill their duties. Do they have adequate training? Is there anything they are unsure of or need clarification on? Are they worried about dealing with a specific client or pet? Try to address any uncertainty and take steps to fix it.
Communication is vital, both in identifying and managing the problems. Sit down with your employees and work out what you can do to help them. This may mean swapping schedules or working out more flexible hours. It may also involve hiring additional staff.
2. Set Up An Employee Assistance Programme
There are many Employee Assistance Programme services for employers. Packages vary but tend to include counselling and referral services for employees. They are created to help employees with issues that may impact on their work. If this is an option for your business, it will offer your staff the support they need during difficult times.
3. Set Clear Policies And Contracts
It is important that everyone is aware of their responsibilities from the outset. This includes responsibilities regarding their own roles and to the company. Any policies and documentation should be clear and transparent. Go through these with employees at the beginning of their employment and ensure they are aware of what is expected of them. Review your job descriptions to make sure they include all requirements and expectations.
Employers should also set up regular supervision meetings. This provides objectives and targets for employees. The manager and employee can both assess how well these have been fulfilled. They can then decide together where changes need to be made. This is a great opportunity to look at strengths and provide useful constructive criticism. A positive approach should always be taken, even when discussing weaknesses. Always start with the positives. Suggest different approaches and improvements rather than dwelling on failures.
4. Flexibility And Control
People can often feel pressured if they have no control over their workload and how it is managed. Everyone works in a slightly different way. Though there must be some structure in a work environment, it is important to allow employees some control over their work. For example, when planning their routes each day, etc. Or in how to deal with a particular pet.
Discuss work with staff and involve them in making decisions. Involve them in discussions on how work is carried out. They are likely to have some useful insights and may be able to streamline/improve processes.
5. Foster An Open And Supportive Environment
If workers feel they can’t talk to managers about issues, this creates an unhealthy environment. Therefore, it is essential that you create an open and supportive workspace. Ensure supervisors and managers hold regular meetings with their charges to discuss issues they may be facing. Encourage an ‘open door’ policy. Group meetings are also effective as they allow co-workers to discuss issues among themselves. Social events allow co-workers to build solid relationships.
Keep everyone informed about what is happening in the business as a whole. Let them know about new business and new initiatives. Encourage everyone to make a contribution and put forward suggestions.
6. Manage Change
Changes in company policy or processes can lead to concern and worry. Many people fear change and fear their stability is being rocked. Change is inevitable in all businesses, and it is often necessary for growth. The way you manage this will have a significant impact.
Include everyone in discussions. Consult and ensure everyone can offer input and is heard. Always plan ahead when making changes. Give clear indications about when it will happen and ensure everyone is supported throughout the process.
Providing a caring and supportive environment for staff will help reduce stress. Building strong relationships and fostering an open environment will help workers feel they matter. A happy workforce leads to greater levels of productivity and higher morale. This will impact positively on your bottom line. So, it is in everyone’s best interest to identify and manage stress in the workplace.