In today’s dynamic work environment, leaders who are good at prioritizing the total well-being of the workforce also help to improve key business metrics associated with job satisfaction, employee retention, customer loyalty, teamwork, safety, accuracy, and—of course—profitability in the long term.
These leaders take every opportunity to do one thing that they know matters: reduce stress for employees. And since it’s not common for workers to see such efforts, these leaders also take every opportunity to make them visible.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day at the office, we’re sharing an approach to visible stress reduction that we call the HEART model. It aims to unite leaders and employees in co-creating a healthier workplace and, of course, goes especially well with a few chocolates or an emoji-heavy team email of appreciation.
The critical first step to reducing peoples' stress is to HEAR what they’re already saying about it. Whether this information comes flooding in during team meetings or trickling in unexpectedly on daily rounds, employees know when their leaders are really listening, so show them you want to understand their stress levels and troubleshoot together.
The way leaders ENGAGE with employees around the topic of “stress” can actually help minimize it in the moment and for the long haul. It’s worth scheduling time to engage with people on the topic so they can develop and reflect on solid coping mechanisms as well as reasonable solutions. Then, stress reduction can happen more healthily and naturally.
When leaders ASK questions about wellbeing, they give employees a chance to participate in the process of stress reduction. It’s not enough to say, “how are you feeling?” like a broken record though. The key is to have a variety of questions on hand that can target different aspects of well-being and open conversations. When leaders plan out and use such questions effectively, they help create the psychological safety that enables people to get and stay transparent about their stress levels.
One of the most powerful things a leader can do to scale stress reduction across an organization is rather simple: REINFORCE people for taking care of their mental and physical well-being. For example, quick breaks for snacks or walks deserve reinforcement. Why? Because they’re signs that people will take care of themselves, which is essential to taking care of business too. Plus, employees notice and appreciate such reinforcement.
The HEART model doesn’t exist unless leaders who care about wellbeing TAKE TIME to HEAR, ENGAGE, ASK, and REINFORCE efforts to visibly minimize stress. It’s only with time that all these actions become a habit for the leaders and employees who, together, can co-create a healthier workplace.
Conclusion: The benefits of using the HEART model can ripple through any organization, boosting company success and sentiment. It's always a good day to wear your HEART on your sleeve and visibly minimize employee stress across your organization, and today is an opportune chance to have some fun with it. Why not share this post with a fellow leader or your team? It can serve as a foundation for ongoing discussions about how to make visible stress reduction a shared priority this year and beyond.
Want to start preparing for those discussions now? Our guide for effective check-ins can help you decide how to integrate the HEART model one-on-one, when stress tends to be a more urgent topic.