Stress in organisations is a modern day plague impacting employee engagement, productivity and organisational learning.
A stress audit finds out the true costs of stress and disengagement. This valuable data helps you redesign work and employment conditions to create a low-stress highly productive work culture with fully engaged employees.
Download more info on stress audits
When we are stressed we make mistakes, forget things, upset people, disengage and generally lose the plot.
This is why, although absenteeism, sickness and compensations can be a heavy expense, the really destructive aspect of stress is that it costs you even more money for every one of your people that suffer from stress while at work.
Warren was in a last minute panic. He was trying desperately to meet a client’s punishing deadline on a £250,000 contract. Although experienced at his job, this client was new to Warren; protocols were unfamiliar, as were the people he had to deal with. Working from home at 10:00 pm after a hectic day in the office, a momentary loss of attention induced him to make a tiny slip whilst transferring data from one spread sheet to another. The impact was of course totally disproportionate to the size of the error. There was a cash cost to the firm of £50,000 sorting out the ensuing mess, as he had inadvertently sent product to wrong addresses right across Northern Europe.
The clients were not very impressed either.
The whole episode could have been avoided with a little attention and planning from his line manager. But another problem was, Warren didn’t have a line manager – she was off on long-term leave due, funnily enough, to stress. In the meantime, the department was just having to ‘make do’. Warren was left floundering on his own with a new client that dumped three months work on him in his first month on the job. Everyone else in the department was fully stretched and too busy to help. I suspect this type of stress rings bells with many readers; too much to do, too little time to do it and no one to help.
Using an organisational stress audit to find out where and why stress is cropping up in the work place or where it might do so in the future is the first step to making huge cost savings. Stress audits succeed because, apart from locating the existing ‘stressors’ and alleviating them, the audit also helps managers recognise when they are falling into the trap of generating stress for their staff and themselves.
Management is often its own worst enemy
Findings from neuroscience and psychology tell us that management is often its own worst enemy when trying to cultivate fully engaged employees and a high performance organisation. Perhaps this is because, until recently, we have had no means to identify exactly what harm we were doing and have had no way of measuring the exact costs of the damage. Similarly, until now, management theory has not been able to teach us why or how the harm is being done in the first place.
It doesn’t have to be like this.
Stress is triggered by the violation of key psychological needs
Powerful principles from the field of psychotherapy explain that if managers want to avoid creating stressful working conditions and instead unleash the latent potential of a totally engaged workforce then they must balance out a range of psychological needs with the innate human resources available to meet those needs.
Human beings have survived and prospered by evolving into highly socialised, collaborative problem-solving mammals. Our very nature is to be part of a group and participate in a collaborative way for the survival of that group. This means collaborative problem solving is both a need and a highly valuable innate mental and emotional faculty.
The shame is that all too often our hierarchical organisations squeeze us into structures that prevent any meaningful expression of these needs and talents.
Collectively, what we are ignoring is that the inclination to collaborate in support of mutual goals is programmed into our DNA and where we work against this vital human survival trait, we unwittingly trigger the stress response. The resultant stress translates directly into poor work, poor interaction, defective decision-making and a range of other unwelcome symptoms.
Currently stress is intrinsic to the way we run our organisations
The hierarchy’s structural barrier to our core need to collaborate means that currently stress is intrinsic to the way we run our organisations. Not only is this stress totally unnecessary, it is also the underlying reason why so many organisations in both the public and private sector are under-performing and even failing.
Quite simply, management, as a discipline, often works against the grain of human nature and so creates a stressed organisation. The economic and social cost of this fundamental error is enormous.
The impact of stress penetrates every aspect of a working organisation
Stressed organisations harm not just your people but also every aspect of the organisation’s functioning.
Stress impacts directly people’s health, their ability to think clearly and rationally, their judgement, their ability and willingness to collaborate with their peers, their enthusiasm, their interactions with clients and customers, their positivity and optimism, their ability to empathise and a whole range of other factors that are important for added value working.
Through the medium of the individual, stress penetrates every aspect of a working organisation and this is where the real costs tend to escalate. The organisational symptoms include widespread dis-engagement of the work force, corrupted decision-making, damaged working relationships, wasteful internal politics, resistance to change and indifferent creative problem solving; to name but a few. Stressed organisations seem incapable of innovating, learning from their mistakes or working coherently towards their goals.
Removing organisational stressors can uplift performance by 25 to 50%
Through a sophisticated system of “organisational stress auditing” we can now pinpoint where any of 30 stressors may be causing you problems. An organisational stress audit measures the extent and the impact that stress is having on your organisation’s effectiveness and translates this data into financial terms. Once we have identified the relevant stressors and measured their impact it is very often relatively easy and sometimes even cost free to remove or at least ease them.
Remedying organisational stress usually requires a simple redesigning of work patterns and procedures and the modification of organisational structures to be more compatible with healthy and productive working. Ancillary remedies, techniques, and training reinforce the redesign element.
Typically when you remove or at least alleviate organisational stress you can achieve an average performance uplift of 25% to 50%. We are so confident of this that with our stress audits we offer a money back guarantee if the benefits of the audit are less than the cost. But frankly we expect to see a return on investment of at least 10 : 1 or 20 : 1 and sometimes quite a bit more.
Stress or motivation - the leadership choice
Learn more about how our organisational stress audits can help improve employee engagement and your organisation’s productivity and performance. Contact Jeremy Old on 0845 0945 819 or Download more info on stress audits.
Reinventing management thinking
In his ground-breaking book ‘Reinventing management thinking’, Jeremy Old provides a comprehensive explanation of how to achieve a low-stress work environment that transforms employee engagement, productivity, organisational learning and performance.
Although based extensively on the research, the text is entirely accessible to the average non-science based reader.
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