As any person who has had a job can tell you, work can be stressful. While stress is a part of life, being overly stressed can be harmful and it’s an issue that is affecting more and more people. According to the APA, excessive workplace stress causes a staggering 120,000 deaths and results in nearly $190 billion in health care costs each year, which represents 5% to 8% of healthcare spending in the U.S. Workplace stress is a serious issue that has negative effects on the employees and the company they work for. Here are five tips for reducing workplace stress that you can use.
The first step to reducing workplace stress is to identify the things in your work environment that are causing you the most stress. It may seem obvious that the first step to solving a problem is clearly defining the issue, but this step is often skipped when people think about stress management. Keep a journal of the things that cause you the most stress at work. This will help you think of a clear plan of action to tackle some of the issues.
It is also worthwhile to discuss the causes of workplace stress with your boss or supervisor. Overly stressed employees are less effective, so it’s in the business’ best interest to understand the issues that are causing employees stress and to think of ways to address these concerns. There are several things an employer can do to help reduce workplace stress, such as helping employees improve their time management skills, finding employer-sponsored wellness resources for the team, clarifying expectations, making changes to the physical workspace to make it more comfortable and more.
A key component to any plan for reducing workplace stress is abandoning unhealthy responses to stressful situations. Many people have developed unhealthy habits for dealing with stress, such as smoking, coping with comfort foods, or drinking alcohol. However, these responses can make the situation worse. By learning healthy ways to combat workplace stress, you can make yourself feel better without compounding the health issues that stress can cause.
One of the best healthy responses a person can develop is to exercise more. Any form of physical activity (e.g. going for a walk, doing yoga, etc.) is beneficial for stress reduction.
Besides exercising, getting enough sleep is also important for effective stress management. Aim for six to eight hours of sleep each night. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try limiting your caffeine intake late in the day and minimizing stimulating activities, such as computer and television use, before bed.
A common source for workplace anxiety involves the amount of time spent in the office. Whether it’s the length of their morning commute, or they need more time to handle personal affairs, offering flexible schedules can help reduce workplace stress. Allowing employees to have a flexible work schedule will give them time to take care of their personal matters, which in turn allows the employees to be more present at work while they’re there.
Modern technology gives employers multiple options for helping to reduce workplace stress by making it possible to do some work from anywhere. If your employees perform work that could be done remotely, consider days where they can work from home as well if it makes their lives easier. Using affordable remote meeting tools, like those offered by the Conference Group can reduce workplace stress as well as reduce the cost of meetings and travel.
To avoid the negative effects of chronic stress and burnout, it’s important to take the necessary time to replenish and return to yourself to a pre-stress level of functioning. This means you need a way “switch off” from work by having periods of time when you are neither engaging in work-related activities, nor thinking about work. WIth that in mind, don’t let your vacation days go to waste.
Similarly, taking the time to enjoy your hobbies and favorite activities can help take you away from the things that are causing you the most stress. A recent study suggested that even playing simple games on your phone, like Tetris, can help people cope with anxiety and stress. When it comes to stress management, the time you enjoy wasting isn’t wasted time. Taking the time to relax and unwind allows you to come back to work feeling refreshed, reinvigorated and ready to perform at your best.
Defeating workplace stress requires relaxation. Though relaxing is something everyone does naturally, it’s possible to learn techniques to make it easier 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) have been shown to help people cope with multiple kinds stress.
Learning to use any of these techniques for stress management effectively will take time. You can start by taking a few minutes each day to focus on a simple activity like breathing exercises, walking or enjoying a healthy meal. By continually practicing these tactics, your stress reduction ability will grow and you’ll find that you can apply it to aspects of your life besides handling work-related stress.