Like any successful business owner, you're probably keeping an eye on vital aspects of your company, such as productivity and cash flow. But just how tuned in are you to the emotional wellness of you and your employees?
Since October is Emotional Wellness Month, now is a good time to take a close look at how you and your employees are faring. Spotting signs of employee stress and other emotional problems early on can help avoid trouble in the office.
What does emotional wellness mean? It's defined as handling and expressing your feelings in a positive way—and it's important to maintaining a successful business and healthy work environment.
Empathy and support validates their emotional state. This stance often leads to an empowered response from the employee.
—Dean Aslinia, program chair, University of Phoenix
"Emotional wellness is an often unappreciated key to employee longevity," says Justin Roberts, a partner in the personal injury litigation firm, Roberts & Roberts Law Firm. (Law tends to be stressful, he says.)
"Whether we realize it, we all know if our workplace is operating in an orderly and effective way," says Roberts. "An employee can feel when a colleague, owner or manager is not emotionally well or balanced. That can disrupt the workplace."
A Harm to Your Company
Emotional imbalance can have negative impact on company morale and productivity, notes psychiatrist, success coach and author of Just Listen Mark Goulston.
"The less emotionally balanced people are, the more likely they are to have a rigid mindset that tends towards being brittle when called upon to be flexible and adaptive," says Goulston.
"From a neuroscience perspective," he continues, "when people start feeling brittle, their cortisol—the stress hormone—goes up. It becomes difficult, if not impossible, for them to think through a situation rationally."
Emotionally balanced people, on the other hand, are less rigid. And their lower cortisol levels allow them to make rational decisions.
Matt McDonald finds employee emotional wellness to be critical to the smooth operation of his restaurant bar San Jac Saloon
"Emotional wellness is important for any diverse organization like ours, which serves a wide variety of clientele and patrons on a daily basis," says McDonald, the company's operating partner.
"Having to cater to such a variety of needs in a single place at any given time can be tricky to balance, but it's far more difficult if someone on our team isn't experiencing emotional wellness," he continues. "Burnout is especially impactful in the food and beverage realm. If an employee is having a bad day, it can potentially be felt by all."
Spotting Emotional Imbalance in Employees
Given the importance of having a culture of emotional wellness in the workplace, it rests on you as the business owner to spot when employees are stressed.
"Often, emotional issues are accompanied by sudden changes in behavior—for example, suddenly showing up late to work and missing deadlines or a withdrawal from the community at a workplace," says Roberts.
Spotting stress is critical before it turns into distress, advises Goulston.
"Under stress, a person can still focus on goals, even with difficulty," he says. "When stress crosses over into distress, people seek relief in any way possible."
That may include one or more of the following behaviors:
- increased absenteeism
- increased drinking and/or smoking
- withdrawal from usual business activities
- oversensitivity to slights and jokes
- deteriorating follow-through
- talking negatively and complaining
If you see any of these signs, Goulston advises approaching the employee in private.
"Rather than asking if everything is alright, because that will often solicit a yes, use your most concerned tone and say, 'I couldn't help but notice....' [and] then describe the specific observable behaviors without any judgmental quality in your voice. 'What's going on behind that because it's not your usual self?'"
Helping Your Distressed Employees
There are a variety of ways you can help ease employee stress.
"Talking to your employee or offering the person time off can de-escalate a situation," says McDonald. "Being shown some compassion and understanding can immediately give employees a boost of morale. It shows them that while they're having a bad moment, you're not judging them and that their career and livelihood aren't on the line."
Once it's determined that there is a problem, offering empathy and support is vital, agrees licensed professional counselor Dean Aslinia, program chair for the Fully Face-to-Face Community Mental Health Counseling Program at University of Phoenix.
"Empathy and support validates their emotional state," he says. “This stance often leads to an empowered response from the employee."
Aslinia also suggests offering all employees ample opportunity to practice self-care.
"This means allowing enough flexibility for employees to have the ability to guide their optimal work production," he says. "Examples include flexible remote working opportunities, ample personal or vacation days, or even access to resources such as counseling services."
Emotional Wellness Starts at the Top
While an emotionally unbalanced employee can definitely cause trouble in the ranks, an owner's dysfunction is even more disruptive.
"Often emotional maladjustments or dysfunctions of senior leadership within a company have severe cascading impacts on lower-level employees and their work production," says Aslinia. "It is essential for business owners to not only have a business-savvy mindset, but also to have the emotional intelligence required to both regulate their own emotional reactions and to manage their interpersonal relationships."
"It's important to do what you can to clock out and take a mental break from everything—digital and social media included," she says.
Read more articles on employee retention.