How to reduce common causes of employee stress

As an outplacement coach, I work with a lot of stressed people. Every week I talk to people who have lost their jobs, are preparing for interviews, negotiating offers – and another group you might not think of with outplacement coaching – those who have secured their next job and are about to start a new role, or who are settling into life with a new company.

I love that Connor’s outplacement programmes include onboarding support for the first 90 days in role – I am 100% that person that can’t say goodbye and likes to know for sure that we have got the right role in the right company for each individual. It gives me a great sense of satisfaction, but more importantly, is also really helpful to those new starters to have an impartial sounding board to talk through any worries, concerns, doubts, and to share the successes. This Stress Awareness Month I wanted to put the spotlight on the stresses those new starters often experience, and some quick fixes business leaders can make to help this part of the journey run as smoothly as possible.

Keep in touch

A quick check-in over email between signing the contract and their first day is a great way to let your new starters know you’re looking forward to them joining your team and are putting plans in place for their arrival. It helps people to feel like part of the team before they arrive (which will continue to have positive effects once they join) and takes away the stress that can be caused by radio silence of not knowing what to expect, or whether anything is planned for when they start.

Communicate your onboarding plan

Your new starter will likely have lots of questions and be wanting to demonstrate their skills and experience as quickly as possible, so help them do this with an onboarding plan. Whether it’s setting up meetings with key colleagues and stakeholders, or simply providing an org chart and putting the onus on them to do it, provide something so people know what to expect. And if you’re thinking of doing something like a team lunch in the first week, make sure your newbie knows this beforehand as this can be another big cause of stress when you’re new. The logistics of lunch arrangements, potential cost when they might not have received a pay-check, and any possible dietary requirements or anxiety around eating with others is best surfaced openly and not sprung on someone, even if it is meant to be a nice surprise.

Openly discussing performance

Pretty much without fail, I can predict that at some point between weeks 3 and 6 of starting a new role, I’ll get a call to say “Help! What have I done?!” Or “I don’t think I’m doing a good job, what if they get rid of me?!” I can’t think of a single person I have worked with where these fears have been founded, but without much feedback or timescales for when you expect them to hit certain milestones, it’s easy to doom spiral when you’re the newbie. As a leader, make sure your objectives for the role and the individual are clear and have timescales attached. Use this throughout their probation period to track progress, having open and prompt conversations if something isn’t going to plan.

Flexible working

Flexible working and hybrid working continue to be important factors for employee engagement, and quite rightly a lot of organisations are addressing this at the recruitment stage to set out their stall on flex. So make sure this is followed through once someone joins your company. This initial conversation will have formed part of the psychological contract with that individual, whether it’s a formal contractual arrangement or not. Organisations failing to offer flex or reneging on flex promises made to attract talent is a huge cause of stress for new employees. Be honest in your recruitment process and continue to have open conversations whilst your new starter settles in. If you need them in the office more when they are new, that’s absolutely fine, just make sure this isn’t a surprise to anyone and it’s clear if/when a bit more flex might be offered. People who have accepted a job thinking they will work from home 3 days a week only to find they have to commute to the office every day indefinitely will undoubtably be stressed (and quite possibly, leave – wasting your valuable time and money).

Financial health/support

More than ever we need to look at employees holistically, being mindful of their lives and challenges outside of work, as well as their time in the office. Something I’m hearing that makes a big difference to employees, particularly with the current economic challenges, is having access to impartial, qualified experts on how best to handle finances. Whether it’s a conversation with a mortgage advisor during business hours, or a wider discussion about financial health, this can really help to alleviate some of the stress employees feel. They are also very worthwhile company benefits to consider as part of someone’s overall employee benefits package.


Hopefully you’re already offering outplacement to your employees if they are made redundant (and if not, we’d love to speak to you!), but are you also communicating this to employees throughout the whole of their lifecycle with you? It might seem odd to mention outplacement to a new starter in your organisation, but actually, the desire for stability has grown massively in the last few years, and is more-so in the forefront of peoples’ minds. Worrying about job security and what you’d do if you were made redundant can be incredibly stressful, even if it never happens to you. Letting people know when they join your organisation that they will be looked after if the worst happens helps take away this stress before they are in the position of really having to worry about it and lets them focus on the job in hand.

To find out how we can support you to reduce stress in your organisation, visit our website or give us a call on 01491 414010.


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