There’s very little that people can see eye-to-eye on these days. But one thing that we all agree with, is that we are stressed. Every one of us, we all feel stressed. We’ve got bills to pay, appointments to make, our family’s annoying us, and the car’s making a funny noise. Whatever it is, we’re overwhelmed and we just need a safe place to vent. For most of us, on our list of Safe Spaces to Relieve Stress, the Workplace ranks somewhere between 9-Year Old’s Birthday Party and Car Stuck In Gridlock Traffic With No AC. And Full of Bees *. But it doesn’t have to be. Of course, the workplace is always going to be a stressor, there’s always going to be deadlines, computer problems, and the chance of awkwardly running into your boss in the bathroom. But as we all know, we’re simply not as productive when we’re stressed out.
Listen to “Needy: Feelings at work” on Spreaker.
Some people claim that they work better when they’re “under the gun” (I used to say that the best part of waiting until the last minute was that you only had to do it for a minute). But the truth is, we cannot possibly do our best work when we have a lot on our mind. As a teacher, I know when a student shows up in a rough emotional state, I am not going to get any learning done. Not until we address the situation. I start each day with what I call The News & The Weather, where each student takes turns discussing what’s going on in their life and then rates their emotional state in a weather metaphor (“I’m feeling kinda stormy today because…) It takes a bit of time, but it’s definitely worth it in the long run instead of wasting time trying to get cooperation out of someone too overwhelmed to cope.
The same should be done in the workspace. Especially with so many of us working remotely right now, we’re all in different mental spaces, and it also isn’t as easy to see certain warning signals. Taking the time to verbally check-in, and acknowledge our coworkers’ needs will actually save time and increase both productivity and efficiency. It can be as simple as just pausing for a few moments to let a coworker vent. Ask them simple questions, like “What do you need?” “How can I help?” “How can I support you?”. Maybe offer “Wanna go for a walk and tell me about it?” You don’t have to problem-solve – in fact, a lot of the time, we don’t want someone to tell us, “Well what you should do is…”. We just want someone to listen.
Sometimes communicating might be tricky, especially with so many of us teleworking. Often, nonverbal communication can be misinterpreted, or harder for some people to pick up on. Tools like MindfulAppy allow managers to gauge their employees’ emotional ‘weather’ and provide insight to any potential issues. Tying employees’ emotional wellbeing into a company’s values, and meeting their employees’ needs will allow them to perform their best.
To some bosses, addressing employees’ feelings may seem like coddling, or as Michelle puts it, “squishy”. Actually, showing vulnerability and being a caring boss is much tougher than simply ignoring employees’ needs. Again, it will pay off in the long run; if an employee is unhappy, their attitude will be contagious and they will quickly infect the workplace. Taking the time to be a boss who is human and empathizes with people will create the seemingly mythical workplace that employees don’t dread going to.
*bees optional depending on the workplace
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