February 11, 2009

Improve Productivity in an Uncertain Economy

You may have noticed that the United States economy is somewhat unsure of itself these days. Consumer prices are rising, stock markets are fluctuating, and the rate of unemployment has increased. As illustrated in a recent study by Wayne Hochwarter of Florida State University's College of Business, these economic stressors are directly impacting the workplace environment. "People concerned with the effects of gas prices were significantly less attentive on the job, less excited about going to work, less passionate and conscientious and more tense," Hochwarter says in a statement.

The American Institute of Stress estimates that U.S. businesses lose up to $300 billion per year (or $7,500 per employee) due to stress related issues including compensation claims, reduced productivity, absenteeism, medical expenses, and employee turnover. The Bureau of National Affairs suggests that forty percent of job turnover is due to stress.

Here are a few suggestions on ways to reduce workplace stress.

Make it clear to your employees that you have a plan and they are part of it. Having a comprehensive strategic plan in place that is accessible to all employees does wonders for relieving anxiety in the workplace. Employees are much more productive when they know what they are working toward and are not anxious about the future of their job or their company.

Celebrate your successes! Too often, particularly in times of high stress, companies forget to celebrate their successes or affirm the work of employees. A little celebration and affirmation can go a long way toward future productivity.

Let your employees know that you are sensitive to the pressures that they are facing and their need to relieve stress. Many companies might be tempted to cut "stress-relief" activities during periods of economic uncertainty. It is important to recognize that now is the time when these exercises are needed most.

Focus on Communication. According to a survey by the Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Addiction and Mental Health, three of the top four workplace stressors relate to poor communication. Reduce stress by making an effort to improve channels for regular communication, implementing informal performance reviews, and offering positive feedback and constructive criticism.***

An article by Phil Kiracofe, The Director and Chief Innovation Officer of Gooseworks Consulting. Gooseworks has facilitated team development with organizations throughout the United States and abroad.

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