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My previous job was customer service for a huge electronics brand. Many days were ten hours of non-stop calls, some with furious customers who have been trying to resolve issues for weeks or even months, and they’ve just waited on hold for half an hour to talk to you. It was the kind of job that would give some people nightmares, and definitely not for the thin-skinned.

Working in a sector like retail means specific periods, such as Christmas, bring unbelievable pressure and mountains of stress. I learned a lot during these times, including what works for employees who are bearing the brunt of it all. Read on for some inspiration.

1. Divide your workforce as little as possible

If your company has some of your employees working in branches or ‘in the field’ while others are based at a head office, there’s already a good chance that at least one side will develop an ‘us vs. them’ way of thinking. It’s pretty hard to avoid altogether, and luckily most employees will understand the greater need for the business to act like one. Bigger problems arise when everyone is broken down to a multitude of different departments, and only certain people can carry out a part of a process chain. It frustrates workers, hinders their ability to find solutions and hamstrings processes that could be far simpler.

2. Reward ongoing effort, not just specific events

Telling somebody they’ve done a great job should hopefully be a no-brainer to anyone in a management role, but it shouldn’t just be for hitting KPIs or handling a complaint well. In times when the pressure ramps up and time is of the essence, workers need to hear that their continued focus and dedication is noticed and appreciated. Positive feedback for ‘just doing their job’ will go a long way, particularly as it will likely be an unexpected highlight of their day. This can be as simple as a ‘thank you.’

3. Listen to complaints, then ask for solutions

When everyone in the building is up to their eyeballs in important tasks, complaints are the last thing anybody needs. Employees will understand that changes to procedure are unlikely to take place right when everybody is under pressure – but that doesn’t mean you can’t ask for their input. If potential improvements can’t be made right away, promise to follow it up when the timing is right. Maybe even arrange a meeting to prove it. If workers see that you can remember what’s important to them despite busy periods, you’ll get the motivation back in spades.

4. Lead by example

Show them that you can give what you’re asking for. Showering employees with motivational quotes and compliments through emails while you sit back and relax is not going to do anything, and you can guarantee that you’ll be picked up on it quickly. If your workers feel like all the pressure is on them while the management excuse themselves until the stress dies down, any respect for authority goes out the window.

5. Let them enjoy themselves

All things in moderation, of course, but sharing a joke with colleagues should not be treated as work avoidance. Laughter has a wealth of health benefits and positively burns up stress. These moments for employees to breathe and relax their brain for a minute keep them happier, more focused, and ultimately more productive. Positive social interaction is important for human beings and makes a work environment a far easier place to flourish.

There are lots of ways to motivate workers and take them out of the pressures of high-stress, and the approaches you can take will differ depending on the nature of the business and the work environment. Small incentives in the form of friendly competitions or just buying some sweet treats for the office can have a far greater impact than you would first think. Be creative and listen to what your employees value. If you can deliver on these needs, you’ll get much more motivation and loyalty from them.

About the author: Ed Jones writes for Inspiring Interns, which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships. To browse our graduate jobs London listings, visit our website.

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