Coping Strategies for Your Department’s Busiest Times
How your business manages workplace stress can have a big impact on your productivity, employee engagement and even retention. During your busy season, when the demands on your department can peak, having a set of stress relief strategies ready to go will help you tackle your busy season with confidence. In this article, Doug Hamlyn, VP, Finance, of Adecco Canada and Roevin, describes some of the best ways to help your employees manage workplace stress.
When I hear the word “stress,” I think of steel beams and concrete columns and the tests they undergo to make them crack. Though this definition comes from my early career as a civil engineer, in a very similar way, I view work stress as the mental or emotional strain that we are subjected to from difficult or demanding work situations.
I have spent most of my career working in finance departments where stress in its many forms typically happens during quarter-end, year-end or budget season. The usual suspect is the classic ‘having too much work and too little time,’ but can also come from those unexpected events that we hadn’t factored into our timelines. Now, with these unexpected audits or projects on top of an already-full workload, we have plans and priorities that don’t align and family and work conflicts where compromise may not be an option. And if you add to that a manager who isn’t solution-focused, you can get a perfect storm of workplace stress.
As managers, it’s our job to find a way to deliver the results our business requires with minimal stress along the way. Here are some ideas to help alleviate the pressure of peak season stress:
1. Plan ahead
Stress often comes from not having a plan, so give your employees a clear idea of how they’ll get through the busy season. Use the deadlines and workload you already know to develop your plan. Ensure that you also include buffer zones for last-minute or unexpected demands. You should also factor in your employees’ external commitments to get as realistic and attainable a plan as possible. With proper planning and scheduling, you can give your employees that extra bit of confidence that their time and workload is recognized and accounted for.
2. Vacation blackout period
At the hiring stage, make sure to communicate that there are times of the year when employees cannot take vacation. By setting these expectations ahead of time, you help ensure that all resources are available for your busy period.
3. Remain flexible
Determine which deadlines are firm and which are flexible. You may even have some leeway with external audit dates if you ask and have a valid rationale for delay. In addition, make sure you’re flexible with how you allow people to finish their work in lieu of ‘burning the midnight oil.’ For example, allow your employees to finish their work at home, start earlier, etc.
4. Sharing resources
Use external temporary resources to manage routine tasks and free up senior staff to tackle budgets or year-end functions. Make sure all your resources are cross-trained so that they can share assignments for increased staffing flexibility.
Thinking about expanding your temporary workforce? Explore your options with Adecco.
5. Say no
No is a powerful word. While you usually can’t say no to your boss or to your company’s fixed deadlines, think about the discretionary requests that you can say no to, such as attending a meeting when someone can update you later or taking on a new task that would be a better fit for a different department. For non-critical requests that you’d like to take on but don’t have the time for right now, consider saying “not now” and setting a date for the future.
Recognizing your team’s accomplishments can go a long way towards diffusing stress. Even if it’s just taking your staff for a coffee when a deadline is met or ordering in lunch if you can’t get away, small celebrations help demonstrate your appreciation for your staff’s hard work. Plus, these much-needed breaks give your staff some breathing room to help them see the bigger picture (and the eventual return to normalcy).
7. Stay healthy
Encouraging your staff to take steps to prioritize their health will benefit everyone, which is especially true if your busy season coincides with flu season. Encourage your employees to maintain healthy sleep schedules and their physical fitness to ensure that they are ready to tackle their tasks head-on when they’re at work, and to improve their at-home lives at the same time.
As we continue to do more with less, managing through busy periods will always be a challenge. But if you engage everyone in setting a work plan that takes into account each person’s unique and important commitments and their normal working hours, you can minimize the stress they will endure during these periods.
Doug Hamlyn, B.Eng. and MBA, is the Vice President, Finance for Adecco Canada and Roevin. With 10 years in large, multinational public and private staffing companies and experience in the Canadian, U.S. and South African markets, Doug brings senior financial leadership to Adecco’s executive team. Along with his Finance, Real Estate, IT and Occupational Health & Safety teams, Doug’s focus is on regulatory compliance, business controls, process improvements and client support.
Lēad Blog is part of Adecco and Roevin Canada. Hire your perfect team, or get more staffing advice from our experts.