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Don't Let Workplace Stress Snap Your People's Desire to Change

Strategies to help employees adapting to change in the workplace

As technologies evolve, markets open and close, customer wants and needs develop and laws and regulations are updated, the need for organizational change is constant. According to the American Psychological Association’s 2017 Work and Well-Being Survey, employees are twice as likely to report chronic work stress when adapting to change in the workplace.

Stressed employees are also more likely to suffer mental and physical health conditions. They are more likely to become frustrated, bitter, angry and fearful. Natural responses caused by stress are generally classified as ‘fight or flight’. Neither is conducive to success of an organizational change project:

  • When employees fight against change, you’ll need to work extra hard and employ strategies for overcoming resistance to change.
  • Employees who react with a flight response look for a career move elsewhere. Staff turnover increases, and your organization loses valuable talent – the APA study found that stressed employees are three times more likely to look for a new opportunity.

In this article, you’ll learn how to prepare your employees to adapt to change in the workplace with less stress.

Eliminate skepticism about change

Almost a third of employees reported that they believed management had hidden agendas when making organizational change. Almost as many think that management tries to hide the real reasons for change.

To help employees adapt to change, it is necessary to keep them informed of the approaching change, encouraging open conversations about the need for change and the expected benefits. This should help avoid the ‘water cooler’ gossip and misinformation that increases stress and resistance to change.

Eliminate doubt about the outcome of organizational change

Almost 30% of employees are doubtful that change initiatives will achieve the outcomes expected. When something goes wrong during the process of change, doubtful employees use this experience as evidence that the employees have been misinformed to drive resistance to change higher.

To combat this, it is necessary to engage your employees in the change project. Onboard employees in organizational change at the earliest opportunity, asking them for their views and input. Show your employees that you value their contributions and that helping to make change is key to success. When employees’ energy is directed toward solution finding, and when you ensure that they are involved in decision making throughout, stress subsides and engagement rises. Small misses on short-term targets are accepted as stepping stones on the journey to success, and not as evidence of inevitable failure.

Improve engagement by committing to training and coaching

Employees who are poorly equipped to engage with organizational change are most likely to be resistant to it. Therefore, it is essential to consider the training needs of all employees affected by change. This will help them become involved with the project, show them the opportunities that will open up because of change, and help them adapt to their new roles.

Let employees know that adapting to change in the workplace is stressful

Finally, let people know that adapting to change in the workplace will be stressful. Be honest about the effects on their psychological wellbeing, and alert them to the possibility there may be hiccups along the way. Ensure that there are support systems available for confidential discussions, as well as team meetings and other forums to voice concerns and receive honest answers. Employees who are prepared for the stressful experience for adapting to change will be more able to cope with it.

How to relax your employees about organizational change

When preparing your employees for the stress of change, you should ensure they understand that changing the way things are done, implementing new processes or systems, cutting budgets, and so on, is likely to trigger a range of emotional responses.

To help your people manage stress, tell them that there are likely to be times when adapting to change causes them shock, anger and sadness before acceptance, and adjusting to the new environment may include a feeling of loss, confusion or uncertainty.

Organizations should consider how to provide employees the emotional support they may need. Employees will adjust at different paces, require different levels of guidance, and have different emotional responses to stress. Therefore, it is critical that managers are equipped with the skillsets to offer personalized support to their team members who may be struggling to adapt to workplace change.

Organizations must create a workplace in which employees are involved in their own emotional wellbeing and mental health, in a trusting environment in which confidence in leadership helps to reduce the stress of constant organizational change.

Contact Forward Focus today to discover how an Emotional Intelligence course will develop and embed effective personal skills in the workplace, for leaders, managers and employees. These skills will aid employee engagement, and aid the reduction of stress that can disrupt the desire to change.

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