You can’t give the best of yourself at work if you’re stressed. If you don’t believe me, check out this video and ask yourself if that man is stressed or not.
At worst, workplace stress can lead to major health issues, office rage and even violence. At best, it leads to a big drop in productivity. Let’s dive into some workplace stress statistics, what causes workplace stress, and how you can save yourself and your coworkers from office stress.
In case you haven’t spent hours looking up workplace stress statistics recently, don’t worry, we have.
According to studies conducted by The American Institute of Stress, 40% of workers reported that their job was very or extremely stressful, 26% of workers said they were “often or very often burned out or stressed by their work, and 25% view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives.
If numbers aren’t your thing, these basically tell us that work is stressing out a lot of people. If you keep reading, you’ll see why that’s a really bad thing, and what you can do about it.
Workplace stress does a lot more than make you and your employees unhappy.
Stats compiled by Eastern Kentucky University estimates that one million workers miss work every single day due to work stress. Not only does this cost your company salary money for less work, but your team can’t be productive with you away.
Causes and Risks
- Good ‘ole vitamin D
Healthy and Unhealthy Stress
Something interesting about stress is that it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For example, putting some stress on your bones by lifting weights promotes bone density. The denser your bones, the less likely they are to break. This way, when big stressors come your way, you’re more able to handle them.
In weight lifting, injuries typically happen when an athlete tries to lift too much weight, or when they lift with bad form.
The same applies to workplace stress. Good hard work isn’t what puts people under unhealthy stress. It’s when people are overworked and don’t take care of themselves when stress turns sour.
The tough part is figuring out exactly where to draw the line between building and breaking bones.
Square’s blog gives a great rule of thumb for balancing healthy and unhealthy stress for your employees.
The Line Between Healthy and Unhealthy Stress
1. Conflict Resolution
The conflict-stress cycle is a nasty one to be in. Stress is a springboard to conflict, and surrendering to conflict is a great way to be kept up at night stressed about going to work the next day.
- Take conflict head-on: None of this passive-aggressive junk. Being passive-aggressive has never lead to a conclusion that everybody’s happy about.
- Listen carefully: Try to understand the other opinion. Put yourself in their shoes, and have a forgiving, humble attitude.
- Have a tough skin: You may not be directly at fault, but apologize anyway. If you can be the bigger person and stay above offense, the conflict will resolve much more easily.
These three bullet points don’t do the article justice, so check it out for a more thorough guide on handling workplace conflict.
2. Get Outside
We’re lucky. EddyHR is based out of Provo Utah with the beautiful Wasatch Mountains right outside our window. There are dozens of hikes within 30 minutes of our office, and five national parks in Utah.
When we want to experience nature, there are plenty of options. If a weekend trip down to Zion National Park isn’t an option for you, don’t worry. Just getting out of the office and seeing the sky will do you good.
Not only is experiencing the great outdoors a great way to unwind, but there are also specific health benefits associated with being in the sunlight.
One of the most common side effects of vitamin D deficiency is depression and anxiety. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that 8 hours a day in an office can lead to a less-than-ideal mental state.
Avoid this by going outside and catching some rays so your skin can create the Vitamin D you need to stay happy.
3. Minimize Interruptions
Interruptions in today’s workplace are next to impossible to eliminate, and some interruptions are really important. The problem is that even the important interruptions leave you feeling spread thin and unproductive.
To avoid this, turn off your notifications, close your office door, and put on some classical music.
Prioritization is the key to managing the interruptions that need your attention. If something has to be done, evaluate if it has to be done right now, or if it can wait until you’re at a good stopping point.
Taking care of one thing at a time is always more productive than switching between tasks.
Speaking of switching between tasks, let’s talk about multitasking.
4. Don't Multitask
I hate to say it, but multitasking is a lie. Your brain can’t really work on two things at once. When you think you’re writing a report and listening to your coworker at the same time, you’re really just switching between writing the report and listening to your coworker.
This sounds all fine and dandy until you realize that you’re only hearing half of what is being said (if that) and you become the slowest typist ever.
So if you want to be stressed, then do a lot of multitasking. Your productivity will drop, your work will be fragmented, and there you have it!
5. Gamification of Problems
There’s a quote by probably the wisest person ever to put pen to paper, Anonymous, that describes this perfectly. “Love the problem, not your solution.”
Former NASA engineer and current YouTube celebrity Mark Rober presented some interesting ideas on what he calls “The Super Mario Effect.”
Basically, the idea is that when you’re playing Super Mario, at some point, you’re going to fail. You’ll fall down a hole or get hit by a turtle shell. When that happens, you don’t give up once and for all. You see what you did wrong, learn from it, and give it another shot.
By looking at the work you have to do every day as a game, you can overcome the stress that comes from messing up. Failing will always suck, but if you love the problem more than your solution, you’ll want to give it another try, and stress won’t be a part of the equation.
6. Step away from problems.
Notice that this subhead is not “leave problems alone.” No matter what the problem is that you’re working on, staring at the computer frustrated will not help. It helps to look at problems with fresh eyes, so get up and move around. Get out of your chair, go for a walk, and think about something else for a few minutes.
Spending too long stuck at a roadblock only puts you in a rut. In order to get out of the rut and shed some of the stress you take on with each frustrated attempt, you need to reset. A few literal steps back will help you do that.
Some Honorable Mentions
1. Encourage and Schedule breaks
Being constantly on the job for eight hours straight is exhausting and if you don’t take care of yourself, you’ll burn out. Make sure you get up and move around to give your mind a break and relax.
If you’re an employer, encourage your employees to take breaks. It may seem like you’re losing productivity, but if you give people the chance to sharpen their ax, they’ll be able to chop more wood.
2. Work-Life Balance
According to Stress.org, Only 43% of US employees think their employers care about their work-life balance. This is a problem primarily for employers. Fifteen-minute breaks are nice, but remember that for your employees, their job is a means to an end. They work so they can live, they don’t necessarily live to work.
As an employee, do your best to leave work at work. When you come home, enjoy yourself, unwind and recharge. If you keep thinking and worrying about work even when you’re home, you won’t get the mental rest you need to perform well, and your stress will stay high.
3. Be Social
At EddyHR we’re lucky enough to have a full-time in-house chef, Mindy. That means that every day at noon, we have a meal ready for us. We can just go into the cafe, sit down for half an hour, eat, and socialize.
If your company doesn’t have social time built into the day, it’s a bit trickier. Even so, eat lunch with coworkers. Even try doing things outside of work with coworkers. If you’re working on a project with friends, the mood will lighten, and you’ll be able to handle stress better with your support group.
4. Check your Expectations
This one is especially important for both employers and employees. We’re not saying that you should have low expectations at all. Expectations should be high and stretching, but possible. If you give yourself or your employees too much to handle, stress will spike, and productivity will drop.
If you pay attention, you’ll see that if your capacity is at a completely arbitrary 5, and you’re given responsibilities that require a 7, you’ll likely perform at something like a 4.
Again, stretching goals are important, impossible goals are debilitating.
5. Have a nice workspace
There’s an article published on Forbes.com that describes how different elements of a workspace can impact employee wellbeing. Check out the full article to get the full scoop, but some of the key takeaways that you can implement in your office to reduce stress are:
- Improve air quality with filtration systems, plants, and healthy humidity levels.
- Encourage better eating habits or provide healthy food.
- Bring light into the office by maximizing natural light, controlling glare, and replacing flickering lights.
6. Physical activity
There’s room for this no matter your budget or situation. Anybody can be physically active somehow, and any employer can encourage physical activity. If you have the means, subsidize gym memberships and exercise together as a team. If that’s not an option, have company fitness challenges and encourage everyone to join in.
If you can make physical activity a group or social activity, more people will participate and enjoy the awesome benefits of exercise.
Exercise produces endorphins which makes you feel happy, it reduces fatigue, and it helps you sleep. All of these play important roles in reducing stress.
7. Respect Weekends
Both employers and employees need to respect weekends. Do everything you can to keep work a Monday through Friday thing. As an employer, this comes back to your expectations of your employees.
Understand that for them to give you all they can during the week, they need “me time.” As an employee, set boundaries. Set up boundaries for work life and home life. If that means turning off notifications on Friday night, do it.
If there’s one concept that wraps up everything we’ve discussed, it’s the importance of taking care of yourself. Can you expect a starving horse to win a race? Of course not. So take care of yourself and your employees so you can maximize your productivity.