Simple Ways to Deal With Stress at Work

Everyone who has ever held a job has, at some point, felt the pressure of work-related stress. Any job can have stressful elements, even if you love what you do. In the short-term, you may experience pressure to meet a deadline or to fulfill a challenging obligation. But when work stress becomes chronic, it can be overwhelming — and harmful to both physical and emotional health.

Common Sources of Work Stress

Certain factors tend to go hand-in-hand with work-related stress. Some common workplace stressors are:

  • Low salaries.
  • Excessive workloads.
  • Few opportunities for growth or advancement.
  • Work that isn’t engaging or challenging.
  • Lack of social support.
  • Not having enough control over job-related decisions.
  • Conflicting demands or unclear performance expectations.

80% of workers feel stress on the job and nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress.

– The American Institute of Stress

Effects of Uncontrolled Stress

Work-related stress doesn’t just disappear when you head home for the day. When stress persists, it can take a toll on your health and well-being.

A stressful work environment can contribute to problems such as headache, stomachache, sleep disturbances, short temper and difficulty concentrating. Chronic stress can result in anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. It can also contribute to health conditions such as depression, obesity and heart disease. Compounding the problem, people who experience excessive stress often deal with it in unhealthy ways such as overeating, eating unhealthy foods, smoking cigarettes or abusing drugs and alcohol.

Taking Steps to Manage Stress

  • Track your stressors. Keep a journal for a week or two to identify which situations create the most stress and how you respond to them. Record your thoughts, feelings and information about the environment, including the people and circumstances involved, the physical setting and how you reacted. Did you raise your voice? Get a snack from the vending machine? Go for a walk? Taking notes can help you find patterns among your stressors and your reactions to them.
  • Develop healthy responses. Instead of attempting to fight stress with fast food or alcohol, do your best to make healthy choices when you feel the tension rise. Exercise is a great stress-buster. Yoga can be an excellent choice, but any form of physical activity is beneficial. Also make time for hobbies and favorite activities. Whether it’s reading a novel, going to concerts or playing games with your family, make sure to set aside time for the things that bring you pleasure. Getting enough good-quality sleep is also important for effective stress management. Build healthy sleep habits by limiting your caffeine intake late in the day and minimizing stimulating activities, such as computer and television use, at night.
  • Establish boundaries. In today’s digital world, it’s easy to feel pressure to be available 24 hours a day. Establish some work-life boundaries for yourself. That might mean making a rule not to check email from home in the evening, or not answering the phone during dinner. Although people have different preferences when it comes to how much they blend their work and home life, creating some clear boundaries between these realms can reduce the potential for work-life conflict and the stress that goes with it.
  • Take time to recharge. To avoid the negative effects of chronic stress and burnout, we need time to replenish and return to our pre-stress level of functioning. This recovery process requires “switching off” from work by having periods of time when you are neither engaging in work-related activities, nor thinking about work. That’s why it’s critical that you disconnect from time to time, in a way that fits your needs and preferences. Don’t let your vacation days go to waste. When possible, take time off to relax and unwind, so you come back to work feeling reinvigorated and ready to perform at your best. When you’re not able to take time off, get a quick boost by turning off your smartphone and focusing your attention on non-work activities for a while.
  • Learn how to relax. Techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises and mindfulness (a state in which you actively observe present experiences and thoughts without judging them) can help melt away stress. Start by taking a few minutes each day to focus on a simple activity like breathing, walking or enjoying a meal. The skill of being able to focus purposefully on a single activity without distraction will get stronger with practice and you’ll find that you can apply it to many different aspects of your life.
  • Talk to your supervisor. Employee health has been linked to productivity at work, so your boss has an incentive to create a work environment that promotes employee well-being. Start by having an open conversation with your supervisor. The purpose of this isn’t to lay out a list of complaints, but rather to come up with an effective plan for managing the stressors you’ve identified, so you can perform at your best on the job. While some parts of the plan may be designed to help you improve your skills in areas such as time management, other elements might include identifying employer-sponsored wellness resources you can tap into, clarifying what’s expected of you, getting necessary resources or support from colleagues, enriching your job to include more challenging or meaningful tasks, or making changes to your physical workspace to make it more comfortable and reduce strain.
  • Get some support. Accepting help from trusted friends and family members can improve your ability to manage stress. Your employer may also have stress management resources available through an employee assistance program (EAP), including online information, available counseling and referral to mental health professionals, if needed. If you continue to feel overwhelmed by work stress, you may want to talk to a psychologist, who can help you better manage stress and change unhealthy behavior.

Simple Ways to Reduce Stress in the Workplace

A great manager is one who not only is aware of the problem, but they also find ways fix it. In order to reduce stress in the workplace and making it more conducive, here are some ways that can help reduce stress in the workplace.

Set clear (or clearer!) goals for your team members

It is about time for you as a manager, to set clear goals for your team members. By setting clearer goals, your team members do not have to think long and hard about what their initial task was supposed to be. It gets them going and focus on the important task at hand, instead of doing it their way, which could lead them on the wrong track.

This would also mean valuable time lost and they having to redo it again or you would have to do it for them. This gives your team members a peace of mind because they know what they need to focus on and why.

Encourage mindfulness in your team

The idea of mindfulness or meditation in the office is becoming more and more common. We wrote an article a while back on how meditation can make you a better leader. We encourage you to read this, and share it with your team, no matter what their role.

Offer a flexible work environment

Nowadays, everyone is looking for that flexibility at work. Allow your team members flexibility by not monitoring them often, so long as their work is completed by specific deadlines. Remember that salary is not everything.

Allow that team member who has children by letting them come into the office early and leave early to pick their children up. Or allow working from home once a fortnight so team members can have a change of environment once a while. As a great manager, you will always need to look for ways to reduce stress in the workplace.

Encourage employees to move their bodies

The mind needs that break occasionally. In order to reduce stress in the workplace, encourage your team members to take time from their day to exercise at the gym, take a walking lunch or meeting or try a yoga class. The mind and body will have greater focus and clarity of thought. Physical activity such as yoga and running is also a good way for staff to learn how to pace themselves at work.

You can also set some quick 5-minute reminders for your team members after every 2 hours of constant staring at the computer. Get them off their chair and on their feet to stretch their body and rest their eyes by looking out of the window.

reduce stress in the workplace

Workplace recognition

Another way to reduce stress in the workplace is by encouraging workplace recognition. In our past article, 7 Awesome Methods for Employee Recognition, we mentioned that employees who feel they have a positive personal rapport with their management are more likely to be engaged, and they would feel appreciated when they or their work gets noticed.

Great companies know that the employees are the heart of the business. However, a great manager should recognize the effort of their team members and appreciate what they have done for the company. So, you can either have a short chat with them and tell them what a great job they have been doing, or make a small announcement about it during your weekly meetings in front of their colleagues.

In Summary

As a great manager, you need to reassure your team members that you are aware of their stress level and share with them on how to reduce stress in the workplace. Remember that employees don’t have to sacrifice their health or happiness over things happening at work.

Here is a quick recap on the simple ways to reduce stress in the workplace:

  • Set clear goals for your employees
  • Encourage mindfulness with your team
  • Offer a flexible work environment
  • Encourage employees to move their bodies
  • Workplace recognition

These simple steps can help you reduce stress in the workplace and it not only will improve their lives but you will create loyal team members who enjoy coming to work each day. Be a great manager by leading by example to create a less stressful workplace for everyone, even yourself.

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