by Robin Throckmorton, MA, SPHR and Debbie Hatke, MA, PHR
Times are tough for some folks…but with the New Year comes new hope. I’ve talked with a variety of employers, both large and small, public and private, product-based and service oriented, and the consensus is – there is NO consensus. Everyone is being affected by the now historic economic upheaval in a different way. While some acknowledge a definite impact on their business operations, others don’t seem to be impacted that much at all. It’s this diverse reaction to the downturn which will probably be good for all of us in the long run. Unfortunately, the messages of hope are not as interesting to report about in the news and everywhere we turn we hear negative reports about the economy, unemployment, foreclosures, and the list goes on. Regardless of our own personal situations, this negative news can settle in our psyche and play havoc with our emotions. Employers have reported seeing more individuals filing lawsuits as well as increases in personal health issues. It’s important for our survival not to let the current economic conditions continue to create pessimism and problems both at work and at home – even if they are only perceived and not actually being felt personally.
Fortunately there is a way to combat these negative feelings and work through stressful times. But how do you know if you, your family or your employees are suffering from stress? Take a look at some of these physical and mental symptoms that indicate someone is experiencing undue stress.
- Sweaty palms
- Sleep problems
- Back pain
- Stomach problems
- Muscle tension
- Poor eating habits
Does this sound like you these days? Anyone else you know? Are your employees showing any signs of stress? If so, take action now – make it your New Year’s Resolution to de-stress yourself or someone you care about. Stress is obviously harmful to your health and can lead to serious health problems such as high blood pressure, ulcers, asthma, heart attack and stroke, to name a few. Stress also can negatively affect relationships and definitely affects productivity on the job.
There are lots of great resources online to help with stress. Everything from physical exercise to mental exercise – and in some cases a change in diet can help too (especially after all the eating that goes on during the holidays). Don’t forget, we’re also entering the gloomy days of winter, which can make anyone unhappy if the cold, gray days last long enough. To improve the mood at the office, you could do something simple like invest in new lighting (full spectrum happy lights), or other ergonomic improvements such as new chairs or keyboards (feeling physically good impacts our mental well-being). On a personal level, you can combat stress by taking “control” and creating a strategic plan for yourself. Determine what’s going well in your life and identify areas that you’d like to improve. If you need help identifying your individual priorities and what you need to be focusing on, try taking the Wheel of Life Assessment:
Use the results to determine what you value the most and whether or not it is in balance in your life. If things are not in balance, create a plan to get it in balance. Having a plan in writing will help ensure that you will follow the steps you need to take and make it more manageable.
If business is booming for your company, that’s great news – and should be celebrated by your organization and your employees. Don’t forget that good news is a mood booster, and if things aren’t going well personally for some of your employees, good news at work can help lift their spirits. Likewise, if things are going well, perhaps there is something you can do as an organization for those employees who may be struggling. If business is slow for you now, you might have your hands full managing the business, but don’t forget about the needs of your employees who may be suffering alongside you.
Should you “run out of things to do” or don’t have much stress in your organization that needs addressing, good for you! Use this time to assess your company and be prepared for the future.
- Assess your company’s resources and determine how you can diversify to capitalize on a down market.
- Don’t stop marketing! Be sure your target customers know who you are and what you do so when the market does improve they will immediately think of you.
- Communicate to your employees! Many companies stop communicating when times are bad. This is an important time to communicate! Employees want to hear the good AND the bad. If not, they will assume the worse and fill in the gaps for what they don’t hear. Most likely, the result will be a loss in productivity, morale and good employees.
- Train employees! While it is slower than normal, take advantage and provide that needed training that you never have time to do.
As an individual, you control your destiny but life might be throwing a few curve balls at you right now, so take this time to…
- Recognize when you need help! If your symptoms of stress are beyond your control, don’t hesitate to seek help for the sake of yourself and your family and friends. There is nothing wrong with asking for help.
- If you are unemployed, it is tough out there and you are not alone! Don’t give up! If you financially need to work, you may have to take a job that isn’t perfect until the market improves. But, don’t feel it is giving up! It could just be your foot in the door. Keep your resume ready and network contacts fresh. Continue to find resources to help you stay connected – recruiters, network groups. Develop a short and long-term plan (in writing) so you can have clear direction.
- If your finances are tight, you may have to be creative and to find way to get through this financially- but, you can do it! Develop a budget and determine what can you give up and, where can you get help? I’m not a financial planner or banker and every situation is different, but don’t let financial need shut you down and beat you; – find a way to overcome them. I’ve seen too many (good) relationships fall apart over money. Use those strong relationships to find a way to get through together.
Remember, it’s a new year and a great time to make change! Let’s all start the new year out fresh with an optimistic attitude and set any fear and worry that you may have aside! Take care of your situation as needed, always keeping an eye out for someone else that may also be in need. By helping others through tough times you will be “paying it forward” and the good deed is likely to be returned sometime in the future.
Robin Throckmorton, MA, SPHR, a Senior Human Resources Management Consultant is President of Strategic Human Resources, Inc. (www.strategicHRinc.com). Debbie Hatke, MA, CIR, SPHR is a Senior Human Resources Management Consultant with Strategic Human Resources, Inc. If you have any questions or would like to share your comments or success stories with either of these consultants, you can contact Robin at Robin@strategicHRinc.com or Debbie at Debbie@strategicHRInc.com.