To raise productivity, managers and business owners need to ensure their people are firing on all cylinders. The most precious business commodities right now are focus, drive and a shrewd eye for an opportunity.
But new research from Investors in People suggests staff are experiencing "recession stress" and are more likely to suffer from fatigue, forgetfulness and apathy. Of even greater concern is the discovery that managers may be making the situation worse by failing to step up and lead from the front with confidence.
The research also suggests that older managers seem more capable of brushing off recession stress than their more youthful colleagues – perhaps an indication that recession veterans feel confident that they have been through this before, while younger colleagues are feeling more nervous and uncertain in the current environment.
There are steps that all managers can take, irrespective of experience or the type of business they are running.
Here are our top tips for business managers and owners about how to avoid the impact of recession stress:
• Lead from the front. Stress can be alleviated by having a clear sense of direction and by making sure you have a clear strategy that everyone in the organisation understands.
• Keep your eyes open for the signs of stress among your staff and colleagues – these can include unpredictable and indecisive behaviour, long hours, loss/lack of confidence, problematic behaviour. Try to identify the root cause – people may be less inclined to complain about stress in the current climate, but it could be lurking nevertheless.
• Show the way forward by getting closer to your team. This can be a powerful way of communicating the direction of travel of the organisation, as well as a way to get to know how your team members are coping with the changing climate and improve commitment.
• Keep communication with your employees regular and open. Employees often need to feel comfortable before expressing their concerns, and if you check in with them regularly they are more likely to open up.
• Silence may be worse than bad news. Not knowing can often be worse than knowing, even when the truth is difficult to handle. Avoid silence, as people’s imagination combined with workplace gossip can do far more damage than bad news.
• Create a culture that values innovation. Rewarding innovation will send a message to your team that now is a time to look at existing protocols and procedures afresh. Customers are more likely to accept new ways of receiving services, particularly if they cost less, and such innovation often comes from the people working with customers every day.
• Don’t forget about yourself. If rewarding innovation, talking openly about the future of the organisation and spotting the signs of stress are good enough for your team, they are good principles for you too. Stress can limit your own ability as much as it can your team, and you are not a very effective leader if you are not at full capacity.
Simon Jones is chief executive of Investors in People UK