How to Make Change Less Stressful for Employees

Significant organisational changes can have implications for employee wellbeing. Here are some ways to prevent the stress from overwhelming your people.

How to Make Change Less Stressful for Employees
How to Make Change Less Stressful for Employees

Every organisation goes through phases of change in the form expansion, acquisition, process or technology overhauls, or structural changes within departments and functions. Needless to say, significant shake-ups like these can have implications for company culture, and employee engagement and/or wellbeing. In this article, we will examine ways to prevent or minimise the workplace stress arising from such a situation.

Why is organisational change stressful?

Companies undertake changes for various reasons. These can include improving profitability or market share, using resources more efficiently, raising productivity or changing its brand image.

In the process, the work environment might undergo many upheavals. People may have to familiarise themselves with new technologies or processes. Departments or roles might get created, merged or eliminated. Reporting or structures may change. There may also be higher uncertainty or opacity, at least temporarily, in the work environment.

If these changes become overwhelming, employees may feel a bit lost and scared during this transition. This is especially true if the changes have affected, or are likely to affect, their own job or income security. To help employees navigate these changes better, employers need to focus on being transparent, empathetic, and friendly.

Here are some things that businesses can do to make organisational change less stressful for the employees:

1. Let them know the intention behind the organisational change

When employees are told why exactly a particular change is taking place, it makes them feel more involved and have better control over the situation. Once they know the ‘why’, it is easier to figure out the ‘how’.

2. Talk to your people on a regular basis

The transition can be hectic for leaders and HR departments as well. However, you must keep the two-way communication lines open. Connecting regularly with your employees will help you understand their concerns and get their willing participation.

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Train managers to be empathetic
Train managers to be empathetic

3. Train managers to be empathetic

Large-scale change can come across as a shock to the workforce. Therefore, it’s a good idea to organise training workshops for your managers and team leaders, teaching them how to be extra-empathetic and supportive of their colleagues during this period.

4. Gauge your employees’ well-being

You can use wellbeing assessments to understand your employees’ emotional state. This will give you a clearer sense of how the transition is being perceived by the employees. It will also help you take proactive steps to address any wellbeing issues, such as depression, burnout, anxiety, etc. before they snowball into crises.

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5. Organise support groups

Organise support groups
Organise support groups

Forming support groups comprising employees affected by the change is a great idea. It gives them a place to vent and to find support and resources from others. Basically, it provides a safe listening space that helps employees feel heard and understood.

Setting up Peer Support Groups at Work

6. Facilitate therapy

Facilitating expert-led individual or group therapy sessions for your people is a good way to address people’s anxieties. It helps them find the tools to manage their emotions and handle the changes more positively. Make sure that your people know that the therapy sessions are completely confidential and private.

7. Stress on your values

In order for the transition to be smooth, you need the buy-in of every employee and team member. Speak to people about the organisation’s goal and values and help people see how the changes are in line with those values. Falling back on the shared values is a great way to give people a sense of stability and win their participation and support.

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