Q: We run a business that is, by nature, fairly stressful. I would like to create a more enjoyable work environment. Do you have any suggestions for making our intense workplace more fun?
A: I think one of the smartest things any small businessperson can do is to show his or her appreciation for a hard-working employee. There are all sorts of things you can do at the workplace to make things less stressful for everyone. The important thing is that you give employees a chance to think about something else during the day, other than their deadlines, quotas, and sales.
I know of a company that planned a new rec-center when it began to design a new building. The new and expanded break room included an air hockey table, and foosball and ping-pong tables. Out in back, they even had a basketball hoop. Having such amenities doesn't cost a whole lot, and especially in a high-stress workplace, gives people an opportunity to blow off some steam in a constructive manner.
Another way to relieve workplace stress is to give employees the chance to take some extra time off when they need it. For example, you might consider giving employees an extra day or two off each quarter, above and beyond sick days. I know of one company that calls this its "personal business days." If employees are stressed out and need to handle some personal issues, they simply call in, take a take the day off, and handle their personal business, no questions asked.
Here is another idea: What about having a massage therapist come by every other week for a complimentary 15-minute back massage at employee's desks? What about a noon in-house Yoga class? Be creative. Take suggestions. Employees are much more effective when they enjoy their workplace and are not always feeing stressed-out. A few changes can reap tremendous rewards.
When viewed in the right light then, stress in the workplace is simply another opportunity. It allows you to show employees what a great place it is they work, and what a wonderful boss you are. Without spending a whole lot of money, you can transform office stress into something positive.
Today's tip: In this era of instant messaging, e-mail, cell phones, faxes and other ways to instantly communicate, don't underestimate the value of the personal letter. Jay Conrad Levinson, author Guerilla Marketing, says that "The writing of personal letters is one of the most effective, easy, inexpensive, and overlooked methods of marketing. It enables you to convey a truly personal feeling and reach a special place in the mind of the reader."
One big believer in the power of the personal letter is former President George Bush. The one-time Vice President, head of the CIA, and Ambassador to China and the U.N. was an inveterate letter-writer, and has said that he believes that one reason he was finally elected President was because of the good will he created by writing so many letters to friends and colleagues over the years.
© 2010 Steven D. Strauss, “America’s small business expert.” www.MrAllBiz.com