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It’s Stress Awareness Month: Are Your Managers Getting the Help They Need?

April marks the start of National Stress Awareness Month—a crucial time dedicated to recognizing and combating the modern stress epidemic. But in the hustle and bustle of the corporate world, the focus often narrows in on employee stress. While this is a significant concern for any organization looking to improve workplace wellbeing, lurking behind the curtain of leadership you’ll often find the overlooked stress of managers.

These essential figures who steer the ship face unique pressures that can go unnoticed in the broader dialogue around workplace wellness. This is especially true for younger generations, as Fortune notes, with millennial middle managers being the most likely group to feel stressed, overwhelmed, and burned out at work.

Not only does stress lead to health problems and mental illness, but elevated levels over time can also ripple through the organization, affecting overall morale and productivity. So how can employers help their managers manage their stress?

To understand that, we first need to identify the types of stress we deal with.

The Consequences of Stress for Managers

As humans, we’ve evolved to have a natural stress response to evolutionary pressures that goes something like this:

  1. A person notices a threat or stress trigger nearby, perhaps a fire.
  2. The body enters a state of high alert, pumping out stress hormones that increase blood pressure, tense muscles, and trigger the "fight-or-flight” response.
  3. The threat passes or they get to safety, and the stress hormones subside as the body recovers.

While emergencies might not happen every day in the office, this kind of stress response can manifest and cause the same fear and anxiety. We've simply replaced physical fires with "fire drills" like deadlines, financial worries, family dysfunctions, social issues, and other day-to-day pressures.

As a consequence of this, not every stressful situation is put out as easily as a fire. Instead, we experience three types of stress: 

  1. Acute Stress: This is the most common form of stress, occurring for a brief period due to recent and/or anticipated demands.
  2. Chronic Stress: This is the stress that grinds individuals away day after day, often resulting from unrelenting pressures, such as financial stress.
  3. Episodic Acute Stress: This type of stress occurs when individuals frequently experience acute stress due to persistent triggers.

Identify Signs and Symptoms of Stress in Managers

While employers don’t need to be able to identify these three types of stress, they should work on spotting the signs and symptoms of stress in their teams. This is especially true in managers, who are often caught between the expectations of upper management and the needs of their teams.

Stress indicators can range from observable changes in behavior—such as irritability, withdrawal, or decision-making hesitancy—to more subtle signs like decreased productivity or changes in communication patterns. Physical symptoms can also include fatigue, headaches, or changes in appetite.

Recognizing these signs early is crucial for providing timely support and interventions, ensuring managers remain effective leaders while taking care of their mental health.


6 Strategies for Supporting Managers During Stress Awareness Month

To help employers support their managers during National Stress Awareness Month and beyond, here are six strategies for minimizing workplace stress:

1. Establish an Employee Assistance Program

An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a confidential workplace service that helps employees deal with work-life stressors, whether it’s family issues, financial concerns, relationship problems, and even drug or legal concerns. Establishing an EAP demonstrates an organization’s commitment to their managers’ and employees’ wellbeing, reducing stress and the consequences that come with it, from absenteeism to poor productivity.

2. Review and Enhance Communication Channels

Communication is the backbone of any organization. Ensuring all team members, including managers, have clear, open lines of communication with each other and with leadership is essential to stress management. Regular check-ins, feedback systems, and open-door policies should also be in place to encourage transparency and dialogue, allowing managers to express concerns freely.

3. Promote Physical Health and Fitness

Employers can also promote physical activity as a way of managing stress. Whether through gym memberships, fitness challenges, or group classes, these initiatives make it easier for managers to maintain their physical health and reduce stress in a healthy way. Further wellness workshops, health screenings, and nutrition talks can help foster a health-conscious culture.

4. Host Mental Health Workshops

Speaking of workshops, organizing mental health discussions and programs can empower managers with the knowledge and skills to manage stress effectively. These initiatives can cover topics such as stress management techniques, successful coping strategies, mindfulness practices, and more to create a supportive environment that recognizes the importance of mental wellness.

5. Offer Mental Health Tools and Resources

Beyond workshops, employers can also provide managers with ongoing access to mental health tools and resources. This could include subscriptions to mindfulness tools, access to online resources, or even a personalized wellness platform for the whole workplace. Having resources readily available encourages managers to take proactive steps toward managing their stress and mental health, offering them various avenues for support tailored to their individual needs.

6. Create Stress Reduction Zones

Last, but not least, employers can create designated areas within the workplace where employees can go to decompress and recharge. These stress reduction zones could be equipped with comfortable seating, plants, natural light, and materials for relaxation practices, such as yoga mats or meditation cushions. Encouraging managers to take short breaks in these areas to practice mindfulness, meditate, or simply take a moment of quiet can be incredibly beneficial for mental health, helping reduce overall stress levels in the workplace.

Minimize Your Managerial Stress With WellRight

WellRight’s powerful wellness platform offers a multitude of resources, tools, and strategies designed to combat stress and foster a supportive, healthy work environment.

Request a demo today. 

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