The workplace can be a stressful environment. Sometimes, the source of stress is the often overwhelming nature of the job itself, including tense relationships between team members and management. Other times, stress builds as a result of employees overexerting themselves by taking on more than they can handle or by failing to properly manage their time and energy. Regardless of where the stress comes from, it’s known to have severe negative effects both on work performance and personal well-being.
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology notes in their article The Effects of Stress in the Workplace,
“Individuals under stress at work have been known to experience fatigue and/or low motivation which can directly influence an organization’s morale and decrease overall productivity.”
Other negative effects of stress include:
- Poor decision-making
- An increase in mistakes
- Increased sickness and absence
- High employee turnover
- Poor interpersonal communication
Stress, however, is not something that is easily overcome from the top down. One of the best ways for managing stress in the workplace is for employees to take charge to manage their stressors and learn simple but effective techniques to tone the tension down.
These three suggestions will help employees at any level, including leadership, to create a less stressful daily work environment.
#1. Just Say No to interruptions
Psychology Today explains that the reasons we often try to do too many things at once are stress and fear:
“One of the reasons that we give in to multitasking is that we feel more and more anxious as the day goes on that we have not accomplished what we wanted to, or what was important to us.”
Emails, phone calls, social media, text messages, nosy coworkers — all of these factors conspire to make today’s employees less focused and more stressed. Though you can't always eliminate all interruptions, you can learn to manage them more effectively by gauging your response.
When an interruption pops up, ask yourself: does this need to be addressed now? If not, quickly make a note and return to it later. You may sometimes feel inadequate if you're not able to respond to every inquiry and request immediately, it will ultimately pay off with lower stress and improved efficiency.
Though this may seem a bit obvious, employees need to take charge of their health (and be empowered to do so by their leaders!). Staying up late to work on that proposal may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but if it is going to impact your performance the next day, it’s better to hold off. Getting enough sleep is crucial to stress management since when a person is tired, they're unable to perform at their peak level and are more likely to make mistakes.
Also be sure to stay physically active. Even when sitting at a desk all day, you should take a few minutes between tasks to go for a short walk around the office or outside.
Oftentimes, employees will work through their lunch breaks or sit at their computer clicking around on social media while eating a sandwich. This “down time” is the perfect opportunity to get some physical activity in before the afternoon haul begins. Even short spurts of exercise can increase endorphins, thereby reducing stress and improving focus.#3. Broken? Fix it!
If you have specific points of stress or concerns in your workplace, rather than trying to “deal” with them by letting the wound fester, address the problem head on! Pinpoint your stressors and be open and honest with yourself and with your coworkers and leadership. Oftentimes, others are more than willing to help you delegate or reorganize, especially if it means that the overall tension in the environment will decrease.
Don’t be embarrassed to speak with your manager if your load is too heavy. Sometimes, management is simply unaware of the time and energy certain tasks will take.
Stress is often an inevitable part of the work environment. Employers can help to mitigate stress by recognizing their employees’ needs and making worker satisfaction and comfort a priority. Employees can take tangible steps in their own work life to reduce stress and increase productivity. And everyone must remember to speak out when the tension is too high — a less stressful environment benefits everyone, from top to bottom.
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