Replace Workplace Stress with High-Performance

In this post, we are bringing you some tools that can help you navigate the stress in the workplace. In particular for the time we are writing, we are focusing on stress caused by the pandemic, though stress at work has been a factor for far longer than COVID-19. Positive work environments support the building of high functioning employees and teams. What is the new normal, and how do we make it work? That was the question we asked ourselves as we looked into our toolbox for the right mix of tools to bring our readers. We found two tools that we think are the perfect blend for you to manage the changes and help your employees to be successful: Work Positive and the The Question Method.

Work Positive is the United Kingdom’s government program designed to help organizations understand and address workplace stress. PGS has developed tools for our clients that combine the best of Work Positive with our own management and supervision process The Question Method. CEO John Gregoire explains the tools and their successful “marriage” in building strong teams below.

Valuable stress exists, and it can motivate employees to do their best work and keep a sharp focus, referred to as useful stress. Harmful stress also exists, and it halts progress, stifles creativity and optimism, and damages the health and well-being of employees. The Work Positive program identifies six workplace areas that are considered the source of unhealthy stress for most employees. Once you identify where the stress is coming from in an organization, there are recommended responses to improving your work environment.

As we researched Work Positive, we became excited about the obvious parallels to The Question Method approach to supervision. Bill Dann’s book, Creating High Performers: 7 Questions to Ask Your Direct Reports teaches supervisors how to change the relationship with employees from time manager to performance coach. Our assumption is that the vast majority of employees want to do a good job, but are hampered by a lack of feedback, resources, training, etc.  The 6 areas identified in Work Positive as the primary stressors aligned with the questions we ask when applying The Question Method. Why is this particularly important now?

During this COVID 19 pandemic, workplace environments have undergone drastic change. In many cases, they are completely altered. Now more than ever we need to be intentional in building workplaces. We need to remain aware of the factors that create or limit our team’s success.

Let’s look at the potential stressors of a fully virtual office from the Work Positive 6 key areas:

Demands: Employees who have had the luxury of entering a coworker’s office to get a signature or support on a problem no longer have that access. In this case it is not that the demands of work have changed as much as that the demands by being home have compounded pressure on virtual employees.

Control: We no longer have shared environments that allow us to control what each employee experiences. Instead we are all experiencing different home office environments, mixed environments, and/or changes to the workplace made to support safety for staff and visitors.

Support:  In a non-virtual setting, supervisors have the ability to see their staff and support them easily by answering questions directly and looking at a problem. Without the ability to see staff, supervisors need to find different cues to know when staff need help or are struggling to keep up.

Relationships: Our ability to create and manage our relationships has been drastically changed by our lack of proximity to each other and the stresses associated with protecting ourselves during a pandemic.

Role: Employees’ roles in team social structure and in creating work culture are different in virtual offices. Those personas and roles on the team are different when working from home.  Some staff who are energized by social contact may no longer feel like part of the team.

Change: As a general rule, people don’t manage or handle change well, and change is everywhere right now. Be aware as a supervisor and/or coworker of how people are feeling about all the changes to their work and workplaces and how they are coping.

The pandemic and the changes it has brought about are not quite nearing their end.  Many organizations are making long term adjustments, while staff are adopting new patterns and behaviors. Organizations that are not looking at permanent virtual offices, etc., will instead need to go through the process of reversing the changes they have been making when we go back to the post COVID world. Change is often the source of the stress, and the way we manage change is critical to a successful effort.

What to do?

As a leader taking your organization through an unprecedented time of change and stress, we encourage you to take two steps to help you and your staff. Assess the stress of your staff. You can do this any number of ways. Build a simple questionnaire, have one-one-one meetings or a group meeting with your staff or contact PGS to complete the assessment for you.  Once you know the area(s) causing the greatest stress to your staff, you can create an action plan to reduce the stressors.

To complement that work, grab a copy of “Creating High Performers: 7 Questions to Ask Your Direct Reports” and review it with your supervisors. Get the process started with staff and their managers so that employees have all the tools they need to be productive and successful.

As always, give us a call for help. We have taken the best of the tools from the Work Positive process and built a custom assessment for workplace stress. Our assessment results can help you create a more positive work environment with increased satisfaction and engagement. We have successfully rolled out this version of Work Positive in partnership with The Question Method approach to supervision.  We would be happy to walk you through either or both tools so that you can create high functioning teams despite all that is going on around them.

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“…I love Bill’s book. He introduces 7 Questions you can use to partner with your people for better performance…Use Bill Dann’s good questions, and I guarantee not only that you will become a better leader/manager, but that your people will become better performers.”

Ken Blanchard
Coauthor of The One Minute Manager and Cofounder of the Ken Blanchard Companies