Stress is one of the most prominent emotive states that can impact every part of our lives, including our mental and physical health. Studies show that a staggering 40% of people report experiencing stress and anxiety on a daily basis, and that 65% of those people cited work as the top source of stress.
Of those experiencing workplace related stress, 56% believe that it interferes with their performance in the office. In the UK, stress accounts for a huge 40% of all work-related illness.
Obviously, workplace stress has a range of impacts on the office environment, and none of them are positive. Beating stress is easier said than done, but if you want to have your team performing at the top of their game, it has to be a priority for all of you. Here are five ways to manage work-driven stress, in and out of the office.
1. Take a proper lunch break
It’s can be all too tempting to eat lunch at your desk, or even worse, to skip lunch all together when you’re busy, but this can be counterproductive. Skipping lunch means lowered blood sugar and a big dive in afternoon productivity. Get up from your desk and eat lunch outside if the weather permits, and encourage your team to do the same. Even if it’s just 15 minutes, it’ll make all the difference as you face the second half of the day.
2. Harness the power of communication
As with so many life situations, strong positive relationships within the workplace can make your working world far more engaging and enjoyable. When you have trusting relationships with coworkers or managers, the ability to talk through your stress can make a world of difference. Be open to others coming to you when they could use an ear or a fresh perspective.
If you manage others at work, promote collaboration between your staff, build social events into the schedule and encourage staff to mingle. On a personal level, make it a point to catch someone’s eye and say hello, invite an employee out for coffee, and maintain an open door policy.
3. Share your feelings - but don’t gossip
Bottling up your feelings of stress and anxiety can exacerbate them. Transparency from the top down is essential for employees to feel trust and safety in their position, but employees should also feel safe to share their feelings.
As a manager, it’s particularly important that your employees are able to come to you when they feel overwhelmed before it becomes insurmountable, so that you can shift the workload if necessary. Even when nothing objective can be done to help alleviate the stress, simply acknowledging the overwhelm can help. It can be very lonely for those feeling stressed and anxious, so being able to reach out can be very healing.
The exception to this is when sharing becomes gossiping. A workplace where the staff are constantly sniping at management, and looking out to the next minor dissatisfaction to share, is a negative environment. Constant complaining can become a toxic habit which won’t help anyone’s stress.
4. Enforce boundaries
Just as workers need lunch breaks, they also need longer periods of downtime. In today’s environment of technology, there’s a cultural expectation that workers are reachable all the time, by mobile and email. In France, workers have recently won the right to not respond to emails on evenings and weekends precisely because the practice is recognised as contributing to burnout, stress and health problems.
As a manager, you can make concrete steps towards decreasing your own stress and that of your team by instituting a similar policy. Don’t respond to or send emails out of hours, and make sure your employees don’t feel obliged to do so either. That way, all of you will start Monday morning refreshed and with a measure of emotional equilibrium.
5. Know your limits
Whether you’re the manager or the newest intern, you’re only one person. It can be tempting to say yes to every extra piece of work that’s piled upon you. Ultimately, though, it’s an impossible thing to ask of anyone. Knowing your own limits is essential to avoiding burn out and anxiety. It’s also better for the team as a whole: when someone takes on too much, the quality of work slips and deadlines are missed. Know what you can and can’t achieve, and be clear about those limits.
What do you think?
Stress in the workplace can reduce productivity, staff morale and personal wellbeing. How do you keep cool and maintain a stress-free work environment? What’s worked for you, and what policies does your business have to help your staff cope as well? Share with us in the comments!
This article was written by Tanya Ashworth-Keppel on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources were used to compile this article: Anxiety and Depression Association America, The Guardian, American Psychological Association, Harvard Business Review, BBC and Inc.