Stress Management

Milly Christmann
Milly Christmann

Table of Contents

You are frustrated and angry, and anxiety has settled its thorny grip on you. You want to scream, cry, run, hide, run back and scream more. Stress can be our toughest adversary, and knowing how to manage it is mission-critical for your health. As an HR leader, it’s also about the health of your employees. Let’s take a deeper dive into stress management.

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What Is Stress Management?

Stress comes in many forms from many sources: relationships, job, finances, and health, just to name a few. Stress management means you have the tools to prevent tension from taking a destructive grip on you. While a certain amount of stress will always be a part of our daily lives, it’s important to be able to prevent negative, long-term impacts on your happiness, health, and productivity. In short, stress management is essential for you to be your best self.

Why Is Stress Management Important in the Workplace?

While a certain amount of pressure can be motivating, stressed-out employees hurt everyone in the workplace.  Not only does their productivity suffer, but they often become a distraction for other employees, who may observe the distress of their stressed coworker, want to divert their energy from working to helping, or perhaps even get sucked into the stress vortex themselves, like an infectious disease. Stress overload can completely disrupt a workplace and create a toxic culture. Employee wellness has a direct correlation to engagement, and engagement has a direct correlation to productivity.

The Benefits of Stress Management

A good stress management approach saves your company money and energy.

  • Employee engagement. Keeping stress under control enables employees to find meaning in their work, which allows them the opportunity to perform at their peak.
  • Reduced turnover. Employees who feel heard, safe, and connected to meaningful work will likely stay. If the workplace becomes toxic or unbearable, they will likely quit. A study from Limeade.com stated that almost 40 percent of employees participating in the study cited stress as the primary reason for resigning from a job.
  • Increased productivity. Employees are at their best when stress levels are managed.  They can focus their energy on the work rather than trying to control their emotions.  When workplace stress becomes chronic, it’s labeled as occupational stress and can be debilitating.
  • Fewer accidents. When you are under stress, you are less apt to be careful, follow safety practices, and stay focused. This is how accidents can happen. Additionally, stress may be (mis)managed through alcohol and/or drugs, which in turn can cause workplace accidents.

Common Causes of Stress in the Workplace

There are potential stress triggers everywhere in the workplace. Common causes include how your boss treats you, how your team treats you, what you are expected to produce, and the environment in which your work gets done. Let’s look at them individually.

Interpersonal Conflict

Employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers. That’s been a very popular statement for decades because it has been proven true over and over again. Unresolved conflict with supervisors, teammates, or other employees can cause frustration, anger, and ultimately anxiety, which all lead to occupational stress. Ideally, conflict resolution should be covered in the Employee Handbook. Your company needs both formal and informal processes that help employees resolve conflict.

Disorganization

It is easy to be stressed when you are overwhelmed: that feeling of not knowing where to start when it seems like there are dozens of deliverables you are facing. When companies don’t have clearly define jobs or when supervisors fail to give clear and consistent direction, including priorities, employees can feel disorganized and stressed.

Multi-tasking

At one point, we thought multitasking was the best way to get more work done in a day. Then people realized that speed and accuracy (not to mention sanity) suffered by multitasking. There is a certain point where concentrating on numerous things simultaneously doesn’t work well for most people. Instead, it leads to fractured focus and more stress.

Physical Discomfort

The workplace’s physical environment can cause stress. Examples include having to walk through a parking lot that is dark or in an unsafe area in order to get to and from your work or working in a building with extreme climate conditions (freezing cold in the winter, sweltering heat in the summer). Employers should provide basic physical comfort for all employees; preventing stress adds to the success of the company.

Personal workspace conditions also play a role in your employees’ comfort, including adequate lighting, ventilation, access to a restroom, and a reasonable amount of personal space. An effective countermeasure is for employers to provide an ergonomic assessment for employees as a part of their wellness strategy. These assessments are often free and available through your benefits provider.

Stress Management Techniques

The ideal way to acknowledge and address employee stress is by offering a wellness program as a part of your benefits package. Here are some basic stress management techniques and how your company can encourage employees to use them.

Quiet Reflection

Being still in mindful meditation or prayer is an effective way to hit the “pause” button and give the body and mind a moment to get things in perspective. Some companies encourage these practices by providing quiet spaces in the office for time-outs. Employees should be encouraged to take breaks regularly and, for those with offices, feel free to shut the door when needed.

Physical Exercise

Getting physical is likely the best way to deal with stressors because it allows our bodies to release tension and produce endorphins and other mood-elevating neurochemicals. If you’re in an office, try taking a brisk walk during your lunch hour. Perhaps start a walking group with colleagues. If you’re a remote worker, walk outside or take shorter exercise breaks during the day.  Start a virtual group committed to regular short stints of physical movement. See if the company can support your efforts with fun swag!  Encourage “stretch breaks” during video conferences. Make movement a part of company culture.

Sleep

Sleep deprivation itself can be a stress trigger, so getting the right amount of sleep (between seven to nine hours per night) is an effective strategy to control stress. Sleep is restorative, regulates mood, increases calmness, and improves decision-making. You can solve issues and cope better when you are well-rested. While you probably can’t help your employees sleep better directly, your company can adopt a culture of “leave work at work,” which may help. Be mindful not to encourage excessive hours or weekends and overtime work. Give clear messages about the importance of work/life balance, staying fit, and getting restorative rest.

Connect with Nature

Connecting with the great outdoors lowers stress hormone (cortisol) levels. Studies have shown that just 20 minutes a day can have a positive effect. Step outside and find a green space to enjoy!  If your company isn’t close to green spaces, consider incorporating nature’s stress-relieving properties by adding a small water feature to your workspace or a quiet room with nature photographs. Sometimes even a seat on a bench outside the building can offer a view of the sheer expanse of sky and perhaps a few clouds to allow your mind to wander in a different direction for a bit.

Questions You’ve Asked Us About Stress Management

Adopt a wellness program as a part of overall business strategy in order to promote peak performance. Offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as a part of your current benefits package.
Employees who feel their best will produce their best work. Employee wellness has a direct correlation to engagement, and engagement has a direct correlation to productivity.
Significant changes in behavior, including but not limited to reduced patience, emotional outbursts, increased sick days, failing to complete assignments, or any out-of-the-norm behaviors are all signs of stress.
Milly Christmann
Milly Christmann

Milly Christmann is a high energy, operationally oriented talent management leader with extensive expertise in human resources, sales management, service and operations. She is recognized for collaborating with leaders to achieve their business goals by unleashing the power of an engaged workforce. By using process improvement, technology and strong, impassioned people skills as well as by attracting, developing and retaining top talent, Ms. Christmann drives change that matters.

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