How can coaching boost morale, empower staff and reduce stress in the workplace?

Written by
Changeboard Team

08 Mar 2012

08 Mar 2012 • by Changeboard Team

Stressed employees in the wake of recession

Did you know that in the UK, an estimated 11.4 million working days were lost in 2008 as a result of work-related stress, depression or anxiety? And thats not all. From the UKs Health and Safety Executive, here are a few less well known facts that would trouble you when you think of the implications for your organisation, especially in the wake of a recession:

  • between 2008 and 2009, 24.6 million days were lost due to work related stress
  • at least 415, 000 employees believed they were suffering from work-related stress that was making them ill (2009 Labour Force Survey)
  • almost 17% rated their jobs as very or extremely stressful (2009 Psychosocial Working Conditions)
  • there is a high incidence of work-related mental illness for specific occupational groups along with medical practitioners and public sector employees
  • more than 5,000 new cases of work-related mental health problems are recorded every year. This equates to more than 7 cases for every 1000 workers (2008 THOR surveillance schemes)
  • almost 31% of all diagnoses of work-related ill-health are cases of mental ill-health and the average length of sickness absence of 26.8 working days for certificated employees (2008 THOR Surveillance Report)

Stress in the workplace - set to get worse?

So, not only are employees off work for longer periods, but much of this is a consequence of staff suffering from depression and anxiety. This affects personal well being and morale of the employee, leads to extra payments to recruit temporary/contract staff, places an additional burden on the NHS through using additional resources and can threaten survival of small businesses and disrupt the quality and effectiveness of service in large organisations.

This scenario of workplace stress has not been helped by the wave of redundancies in the UK, made by employers in the private sector. Coupled with predictions that in 2010, there will be contractions in the public sector, at the national level and local authority, the emerging picture is one of more stress in the workplace, rather than less.

The stress of the recession = disengaged employees

Factors that trigger or contribute to stress in the workplace, and ultimately the disengagement of employees, include:

  • impending loss of job and lost income (redundancy)
  • pay freeze or request for reduce working hours make bill payments more difficult
  • feeling undervalued in the workplace and growing loss of confidence
  • loss of significant client or key account to business
  • recent/planned merger of organisation or departments
  • change in roles in organisation
  • promotion, without having a full understanding of the role or skills and knowledge for the new role
  • having to work with a new director or line manager
  • worried about losing your job after the recent wave of redundancies (survivors syndrome)
  • affected by personal issues, outside the workplace

Change, conflict & overload at work

Being out of work is traumatic for most. Often, loss of jobs is associated with reogranisation of departments, changing roles of key and less senior staff and merging of departments or organisations.

Staff can then be way outside their comfort zone as they navigate the organisational change minefield and expand their workplace vocabulary to include terms such as assimilation interviews, preparing for internal interviews and managing survivors syndrome.

Employers cannot affort to understimate either the trauma of redundancy or the longer term effect on confidence, self-esteem and morale of employees. Employers, however, can act to reduce the pain and disruption for business and staff, especially redunancy survivors who have to adjust to changing roles and responsibilities.

Businesses need to retain talent after recession

Survivor employees need to be empowered to develop a positive and confident mindset that will make them more likely to be committed to their current or new roles, instead of looking back to the pre-redundancy past with nostalgia or planning a future in another organisation.

For some employees jumping ship is preferred to waiting for the next wave of redundancies. Others prefer to wait it out until there are well-developed green shoots of economic recovery and turn to one of the more attractive job roles in another organisation.

Either way, employers want to be able to keep skilled and qualified staff so they can maximise business growth and organisational success, instead of finding their companies without the requisite skills and knowledge.

How coaching can boost morale of those left behind

So how can personal performance or corporate and executive coaching be used to boost morale and reduce conflict in the workplace? Here are some suggestions of actions individuals and/or their employer organisations can take:

  • give staff greater confidence about the future through empowering them to explore new options for their way forward and create the future they want after redundancy. Increased confidence about the future boosts morale
  • allow employees to take charge of their situation and focus on what they can control, instead of dwelling on what is outside their control and therefore feel overwhelmed by the present, not optimistic about the future. Staff can explore various options and use their coach as a sounding board before taking appropriate actions to move them to their next opportunity/goal
  • Cultivate a positive approach/mindset about the future rather than dwell on the negativity of the past. Understand how to take positive learning from negative situations in order that Lessons from the past can be used to drive a successful/positive future.
  • Get greater clarity on what really matters to them deal with values and limiting beliefs that may be causing them to feel stressed, rather than assess their reality, explore options and take actions to achieve future goals.

How can organisations apply coaching techniques?

  • Schedule team meetings once or twice monthly to focus on non-target aspects of the organisation/business. These team discussions can explore ways of improving internal communication, providing non-financial incentives for staff, developing and interpreting shared organisational values and defining the organisational culture. In general, improve communication
  • arrange individual one-to-one sessions for employees who are considering if there is a career path for them in the organsiation and determining the pace at which they should make progress
  • schedule one-to-one sessions to help employees earmarked for redundancy or are considering their future with the organisation to explore opportunities they can pursue as a result of their strengths (skills, knowledge, etc), and the Challenges they will need to overcome because of weaknesses
  • involve staff in relevant aspects of decision making, especially on issues relating to change, as this allows for greater buy in and earlier ownership of initiatives. In the process, there will be fewer pockets of resistance, less time is wasted and opportunities lost, fewer incidents of conflict and greater willingess to listen and take on board the views of others during periods of change.

Coaching - key to breaking down barriers to change

Coaching can be used to ensure timely and relevant communication of information about change at all levels of the organisation and can encourage participation by employees in identifying the enablers and barriers to change.

In using coaching to get staff to identify the enablers and barriers to change, employers will have more useful and relevant suggestions on how barriers can be overcome.

In teams, coaching can help in revisiting shared values as a company and re-evaluate the organisational culture, set up new strategic plans and improve communication in order to reduce team conflict and boost morale in the organisation.

How can employers ensure a high ROI in coaching?

Coaching provides a high return on investment, as employers can be ahead by several months, instead of wasting time dealing with resistance to change.

They will be better-positioned to make use of opportunities in the market or respond to the needs of service users.

Further, coaching can lead to improved performance of employees, reduced team conflict and higher levels of staff wellness. Coaching improves talent retention.

Coaching can help shape your future talent

Employees who feel valued and trusted are more likely to share the vision of their leaders and managers, have less work related stress and feel much more empowered to contribute to the effectiveness of the organisation.

It is more cost effective to develop talent from within the organisation instead of recruiting from outside. However, in situations where internal talent requires upskilling and confidence building, coaching can be used to provide more lasting solutions. Solutions that lead to empowered employees or cadre of former employees with favourable views of your organisation.