From stress to success: a 3-step guide for small business owners

Discover how to reduce workplace stress: Validate emotions, address concerns, and offer flexibility to boost employee mental health.

The past few years have taken a toll on people’s mental well-being like few times in our memory. With economic turmoil, rising inflation, and concerns about job security, employee anxieties are higher than ever. Small businesses are not immune to these stresses. In fact, the employees who power your business may be just as concerned about the future as those who work in larger enterprises. Supporting your team members’ mental health is crucial for not only their wellness but your company’s success.

What follows are three vital ways to mitigate employee anxiety and promote mental health.

Validate Emotions and Check in Regularly

In uncertain times, allowing employees to express what they are feeling without judgment goes a long way. As a manager, make space for honest discussions about people’s anxieties and fears. Let them know that everyday struggles are to be expected given current circumstances. Regular check-ins, even brief ones, help create psychological safety in a team. Ask open-ended questions of your people to understand how they are holding up under their workloads. This personal touch shows care for their well-being over just their productivity or what they can do for you. Emphasize that your door is always open if problems emerge. With validation and regular check-ins, employees feel supported in sharing burdens before they might burn out.

Answer Big Questions

Few things are more detrimental to employee performance than uncertainty. And one of the more impactful things employees are concerned about: Will my job last. Uncertainty is exacerbated when bosses sweep challenges facing their firms under the rug. Another big uncertainty: employees wonder: “How am I doing?” and “Do I have a future here?” To mitigate such concerns, leaders need to meet regularly with employees to assess their performance and discuss growth opportunities. This proactive approach fosters increased engagement and commitment to the organization. While managers might not have all the answers regarding the future, they can help employees feel we are all going into the dark together.

Be Flexible with Schedules and Responsibilities

In uncertain times, rigid policies and schedules can add more undue pressure. Compassion goes a long way. Consider offering more flexible schedules as well as hybrid or remote work options where roles allow it. Be open to short-term leaves of absence, job-sharing, or task-trading to maintain work-life balance and employee engagement. Avoid burdening the same people with always taking on new assignments, being on-call or traveling frequently. Rotating people out of high-stress roles on a regular basis can prevent burnout. With compassion and flexibility, employees can feel trusted to get their work done without fear of rigidity taking a mental toll.

Anxiety is inevitable in times of uncertainty. However, there are many small, thoughtful ways business owners can help mitigate undue strains on employee mental health and promote resilience. By validating employee feelings, answering employees’ big questions, and by practicing flexibility, you demonstrate care for the wellbeing of your workforce. This validation fosters loyalty, higher morale, and engagement.

While it might be challenging to find the time, prioritizing mental health supports your employees and small business in the long run. With open communication and compassionate support, together you and your team can navigate stressful times with understanding and care for one another.

Learn more about Chester Elton, host of the Anxiety at Work podcast and the author of this article, here.