Terra Shastri, Manager of Business Development – Ontario Veterinary Medical Association
Between upset clients, distressed patients and hectic lives, it’s common for staff to be stressed. The key is to help the team find balance so that they are not at a constant risk of being burnt out. Identifying who is stressed and then identifying the stressors in the clinic are essential to managing stress within the team.
Consider the following signs as possible indicators of a stressed out team or staff member:
- Have they started or increased drinking or smoking and taking unnecessary risks?
- A significant drop in work performance or productivity. Are they less motivated, indecisive and making frequent errors? Or are they often absent or late for their shift?
- Do they frequently sulk or are they more argumentative and/or aggressive?
- Have they suddenly gained or lost weight? Do they have stomach issues, frequent headaches or tremors?
Team members may be experiencing highly stressful situations outside of the clinic but it is important to recognize potential stressors that exist within the clinic such as:
- Are there unreasonable demands on an individual or team to fulfill their responsibilities or complete tasks? Relieving burdensome of their burden and creating better work flow will help to decrease stress levels.
- Are staff members giving each other a hard time or even bullying another team member? People may be reluctant to speak to management when it comes to these situations, so regularly evaluate staff interactions and eliminate aggressive behaviours. Doing so will harness a much happier and more productive team.
- If demands are being placed on staff members to do certain tasks but they lack the proper tools or resources to complete the job successfully or smoothly, this will add undue stress. Provide staff with the things they require to get a job done. For example, if they are expected to make client booking calls, be sure they have access to a phone in front of a computer where they can focus on the calls.
- According to an article sponsored by Dalton University, learning how to operate updated computer systems and equipment can bring on stress for employees. Changes in policies or job duties can also upset the apple cart.
- When staff focus a lot of energy on one specific task but management does not consider it a priority, it is time to evaluate the clarity of roles, expectations and training. It is unfair to expect a staff member to know what to do if it hasn’t been communicated and they have not been formally trained.
There are a variety of solutions to implement in order to prevent undue stress on a team:
- Depending on the length of their shift, the Employee Standards Act (ESA) provides minimum break requirements. Hospital environments are subject to unexpected events where ‘all hands on deck’ is necessary however, schedule specific times for staff breaks to ensure they take them as required by the ESA.
- Training exposes staff members to new and interesting learning and development which is generally positive and motivational. This also provides an opportunity for staff to learn the scope of their roles. Training also demonstrates to an employee that they are valued and worth investing in for the future.
- When staff are struggling with stress outside of work, they may not have any support through family and friends. When you notice a team member who is not acting like their usual self, meet with them privately to find out if they are okay. They may need someone to talk to who can help direct them to outside resources to assist them.
- The best way to ensure staff are managing their stress effectively is to show them how to do it. It’s easy to recommend that they take breaks, establish a better work/life balance or eat healthier food but if you are not leading by example, your words will not have much meaning.
- According to “301 Ways to Have Fun at Work” by Dave Hemsath, fun may be the single most important trait of a highly effective and successful organization. In fact, companies that adopt a fun-oriented culture have lower levels of absenteeism, greater job satisfaction, less down time and increased employee loyalty. Businesses are making monotonous exercises or tasks more appealing by using techniques like gamification, which involves competing against colleagues, to create some fun while motivating employees to be more productive or learn a new skill set.
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