Culture – Organisational, Leadership, Meetings, Productivity

Your Workplace: Hassle or Haven?

How well do you know your workers? Many people, perhaps most, live complex, chaotic and often conflicted lives. Several people experiencing such pressures would number among your own workforce. Here are some of the common challenges and concerns many of today’s employees and their families face:

  • Relationship breakdown and family violence;
  • Teenagers and young adults self-harming, attempting and committing suicide;
  • Cost of living struggles bringing many families to breaking point;
  • Rising levels of youth crime as well as violence;
  • Struggling with excessively long commute times on public transport. Unacceptable time taken commuting, especially if it involves considerable standing, becomes very tiring as well as time consuming.
  • Coping with broken marriages and spending quality time with children when parents live apart;
  • Dealing with physical health issues that are not always obvious such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and asthma can cause pain or discomfort and thus affect people’s capacity to cope;
  • Australia is experiencing accelerated levels of mental health problems. In 2020 – 2022 42.9% of Australians aged between 16-85 had experienced a mental health crisis; 21.5% had a mental disorder that lasted 12 months; 38.8% of 16-24 year olds experienced a mental health issue that lasted 12 months and 14.3% of 4-17 year olds had been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, the most common being ADHD. Given that mental health issues are generally hidden and are also highly prevalent as the above statistics show coping with mental health in oneself and/or one’s family is probably the strongest pressure impacting your employees. (Admittedly, several of the other issues listed above are also often not apparent to others and therefore also significant.)

As a result of the volume of all this stress (and many workers are coping with multiple stressors) it’s no wonder so many look to their workplace as an escape, a respite. But how much of a haven is it? If your workplace causes additional unnecessary stress to your employees’ lives it just might become the tipping point that brings some to breaking point or resign and work with a more understanding employer.

Here are some ways managers and leaders can help their workplaces be more of a haven that an additional hassle for their employees.

1.        Listen

Listening at depth to your people using such listening skills as paraphrase and perception check is critical. (See my previous article “It Pays to Listen” on this site for further information.) Listening opportunities need to be both structured and unstructured. Structured opportunities between manager and direct report can best happen through regular (ideally weekly or fortnightly) one on one sessions. Unstructured listening opportunities can be encouraged through adopting and communicating such practices as managers having an open door policy (i.e. leaving their office doors open to indicate they are available). For employees to be willing to share personal concerns they need to be able to trust and respect their boss. That happens when they experience their manager as trustworthy and caring – genuine listening is a powerful way to engender trust.

2.        Social Spaces

Establishing relaxed spaces where employees can socialise and build relationships is another method for facilitating community. Examples would include lunch rooms, cafes or recreation facilities employees could use during break times. In one place where I worked all who were in the office at the time, from the CEO to receptionists, would gather together for morning coffee not to discuss work but to share life together.

3.        Team Meetings

Providing at the start of team meetings the opportunity for members to share something of their life, interests or concerns they feel comfortable about is an effective way to build team spirit. To introduce the practice, I’ve found open questions such as ‘My favourite … is…’ (eg. time of the year, pet as a child, holiday venue) and ‘If I had/could … I would…’ (eg. $1,000,000, travel anywhere in the world, play 1 musical instrument) are good ice breakers to use. Naturally, participation must be voluntary with people knowing it is okay to pass.

4.        Flexible Work Schedules

One of the big changes that has resulted from Covid lockdowns is the desire among many employees for hybrid work. (Of course several occupations such as restaurant, transport, factory, and retail positions do not lend themselves to remote work.) However where it is feasible many organisations are allowing employees to work remotely 1-2 days per week. And that doesn’t mean it has to be from their homes if their homes are unsafe or otherwise a difficult venue. Such provision enables workers to better manage their personal lives and family needs and thereby reduce their stress levels. A variation under this heading is permission for employees to arrive and leave work outside of peak hours.


Does all this sounds like excessive pandering to employees? After all they are paid to work when required so surely they should cope or go elsewhere. If that’s your attitude then that’s what’s likely to happen. Research shows that employers who provide as much as possible for their workers’ needs have less resignations, higher job satisfaction levels and better productivity outcomes. What can your organisation do to make your workplace less of a hassle and more of a haven for your staff?

Author Graham Beattie

For free tools on Time Management, Conflict, and Delegation vision our site here.

1 thought on “Your Workplace: Hassle or Haven?

  1. Thank you once again Graham for thought provoking ideas!
    As a Pastor of a Church with my husband I use some of these ideas in our ladies Bible Study and most weeks there is a time for sharing before we study the Word. It has taken quite a few years for all to share and some days there is not much sharing, but on the whole they look forward to sharing and then at the end of the meeting this leads to a time of prayer relating quite often to what has already been shared.
    Thank you for these blogs, I look forward to reading them.
    Meg Richards

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