In today's fast-paced business environments, it's easy for employees to feel overwhelmed. While modern technology has brought many conveniences, it has also cultivated an expectation of 24/7 availability due to the ease of communication. Convenience has led to complexity—and despite our best efforts, it still seems our email inboxes are bursting at the digital seams at the end of the day.

The complexity of the modern workplace can easily leave employees feeling disengaged and defeated—ultimately forcing productivity and morale into a downward spiral. That's why it's important for managers to be proactive about simplifying their teams' working environments and prevent valued talent from leaving or burning out.

Here are five ways that you, as a manager, can help alleviate your team's stress:

  1. Encourage open and honest communication. Don't let your employees' concerns about workplace complexity or overload go unheard. Assure employees that they should raise their hand when they see inefficient processes or have an overly demanding workload. It's important for employees to know that they are supported and won't face any penalties for voicing their concerns.
  2. Prioritize. On any given day, employees need to tackle a variety of tasks, but you can help make sure your team is focusing on the things that matter the most. Meet with your employees and help them understand which tasks are most important or most urgent. Also, let them know it's OK to say, "This has to wait." That way, they will tackle their to-do list one step at a time and accomplish the important work first.
  3. Get rid of low-value or unnecessary steps. Time can easily be devoured cutting through the red tape in organizational structures. Does your team have unnecessary steps in approval procedures for presentation decks or expense reports? If there's any room to simplify processes without jeopardizing work quality, then do it. You'd be surprised how much eliminating a few simple tasks can help reduce workload and stress.
  4. Control meetings. Can you accomplish your meetings in 30 minutes instead of an hour? If so, don't waste time by scheduling your meetings longer than needed. Time can quickly be eaten up by inefficient meetings, so make sure you facilitate productive, short, and actionable meetings that allow your employees to understand action items and get back to work.
  5. Invest in simpler technology. Technology can speed up many business processes, but it can also create bottlenecks if employees find it too complex. Check with employees to see if any systems are slowing them down and see if additional training is required. If there seems to be an unusual amount of resistance or struggle, look into alternative technology that may be easier to use and won't slow down or complicate business processes.

A final tip: Managers set the tone for a team's working culture, so try to start at the top. If you can simplify your own practices, it'll likely begin to trickle down to your direct reports. The modern workplace is always going to be complex, but don't let it become a hindrance to productivity. Letting employees become overwhelmed is a recipe for disaster, so start to simplify your workplace now before it's too late.

21 October 2015

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