Staff cutbacks, heavier workloads and lower morale have been inevitable byproducts of recessionary times. Stress on workers has increased, as a result.

A leaner staff means that everyone is doing more work with fewer resources, which can lead to diminishing returns. If you’ve noticed that your team members are starting to miss deadlines, make more mistakes or adopt negative attitudes, the increased demands may be taking a toll.

Here are some strategies that managers may want use to help ease the negative effects of stress on their teams:

Set clear expectations. Miscommunication and misinterpretation about responsibilities frequently leads to frustration, inefficiency – and, ultimately, unnecessary stress. This is especially true when everyone is working at full speed and effective communication takes a backseat to other priorities.

Make sure your staff members understand from the outset of a project what their role should be and communicate your expectations for completion of various aspects of their assignment. While you don’t want to micromanage, giving comprehensive direction on the front end will save everyone time and frustration in the long run.

Offer autonomy. Once employees have a clear understanding of their responsibilities on a project, give them the flexibility to determine how best to carry out their assignment. You don’t want staff to think they’re left to simply “figure it out,” but they should feel free to engage in creative problem solving and finding their own way to achieve a good outcome. Just be sure to balance autonomy with support by creating an environment in which employees feel they can always come to you with problems or questions.

Re-evaluate workloads. Some of your team members’ assigned duties may have been squeezed out by more pressing priorities. This can add to employee stress, as they may feel significant pressure to carry out both their old and new responsibilities but lack the time and resources to do it all. Now is a good time to review job descriptions and rebalance workloads.

Encourage balance. Long work hours may be essential at peak workload times or when deadlines are looming. Although you want your staff to do what needs to be done, you also don’t want top performers to burn themselves out or resign to take a less stressful position. Encourage employees to use their vacation days and take time off for personal or family commitments, and set the example by doing so yourself.

Be alert to signs that your staff is feeling overwhelmed and take steps to alleviate the pressures on them. Ask employees for their input as well. They will feel better just by knowing that you’re concerned about how stress is affecting them. Together, you should be able to find strategies that will benefit your entire team.

About Robert Half International

Founded in 1948, Robert Half International, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm, is a recognized leader in professional staffing services. The company’s specialized staffing divisions include Accountemps, Robert Half Finance & Accounting and Robert Half Management Resources, for temporary, full-time and senior-level project professionals, respectively, in the fields of accounting and finance; OfficeTeam, for highly skilled temporary administrative support personnel; Robert Half Technology, for information technology professionals; Robert Half Legal, for legal personnel; and The Creative Group, for interactive, design and marketing professionals. Robert Half International has staffing and consulting operations in more than 400 locations worldwide. Find more information at http://www.roberthalf.com/, and follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/RobertHalf_CAN. 

For further information: Nadia Santoli, (416) 350-2330, [email protected]