Change is a major contributor to workplace stress. While some employees may feel excited about a change, others may be fearful because of the uncertainty it represents.
Workplace change comes in many shapes and forms. Changes that employees are more likely to find stressful include:
- New equipment or software
- Changes in processes or procedures
- Staff turnover
- Reorganization in roles or changes in responsibilities
- A new supervisor or manager
- A merger or change in company ownership
Common questions associated with change include:
- What new expectations will I need to meet?
- Do I have the technical expertise or training to do my job well after the change occurs?
- What resources am I losing or gaining as a result of this change?
- Will I get along with a new manager or colleague?
- Why is this necessary?
During times of change, uncertainty and confusion may become major distractions. In addition, change may contribute to the development of factions or conflict between individuals or smaller sub-teams. Some people may opt to move on rather than stay in an unsettled situation.
There are several actions managers can take to address the impact of change. These steps may help guide your team through a period of uncertainty:
- Plan ahead. If you know a change is coming, consider what you can do to make it easier on your team. Have a plan in place for reorganizing workstations or adjusting schedules before the change arrives. Give your team the opportunity to provide input and make adjustments based on their recommendations (when possible).
- Create trust. Someone who finds change unwelcome may feel disoriented, frustrated, angry, or powerless. Counter these emotions by listening and providing factual updates as often as possible.
- Provide resources. Uncertainty is the primary driver of fear and stress during a change. Mitigate it as best you can by providing helpful resources, such as training, written materials, and self-guided resources.
- Explain outcomes. When your team is stressed about a change, it may be helpful to provide concrete reasons as to why it is happening. For example, if you are replacing equipment, explain that it will enable the organization to keep up with technology changes. A “we’re in this together” approach may help your team accept the transition.
- Establish a routine. In times of change, predictability creates a sense of normalcy. Consider starting each week with a short meeting that allows your team to provide updates on their current projects and discuss concerns. Regular email updates at the same time each week may also be helpful.
- Expect a period of adjustment. When someone is using a new software or piece of equipment, a transition period is normal. While training is helpful, the employee will need time to grow comfortable with the new way of performing tasks and may have a short-term drop in productivity. Check in with the person regularly, but avoid hovering. Remind them that they have your support throughout this changeover.
- Be open to opportunity. Periodically reevaluate the impact of change on staffing and workflow. If something isn’t working, adapt systems or processes as needed. Look for ways to harness your team’s unique skills to accomplish goals.
- Celebrate successes. Schedule the occasional team lunch or after-work gathering. If your team is virtual, hold an online event. Recognize individual efforts that have contributed to the team’s overall success.
Source: The Staywell Company, LLC