Stress in the workplace has long been cited as one of the most prevalent dangers to productivity and well-being, as well as increasing the chances of numerous physical ailments among workers such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. However, new research suggests there are ways to make stress work in an employee’s favour, and we have some top tips from a range of sources which can help turn stress into success.
Can Stress Work For You?
Stress has been cited as one of the biggest threats to workplace wellbeing and is one of the main causes of absence for modern employees. It can manifest itself in a variety of ways, from mental strain and anxiety to physical issues such as chronic pain, headaches and even panic attacks. Avoiding stress in today’s fast-paced life is almost impossible, and new research suggests that it needn’t be entirely a bad thing.
Kelly McGonigal, a writer and psychiatrist at Stanford University, has written a new book which calls on people to start viewing stress in a different way – one which can work for you rather than against you. Her new book, The Upside of Stress discusses ways in which stress can be transformed into a tool of empowerment. McGonical says that much of the research done into the causes and effects of stress are designed to create a defeatist response and is often conducted on animals who are deprived of social contact. In reality, stress can be much more positive than many think. McGonigal’s book speaks of changing the relationship we have with stress, rather turning it into a motivational tool. Speaking to The Washington Post, she says that stress can “transform fear into courage, isolation into connection, and suffering into meaning".
How Negative Stress Effects Employees
There are many ailments that can be linked to workplace stress including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, anxiety, panic attacks and lack of sleep. In fact, it is the latter that could be affecting a large number of workers. BlackEnterprise.com recently reported on a poll conducted by global talent firm Lee Hecht Harrison, which suggests that up to 85 percent of us could be losing sleep on a regular basis due to enhanced levels of stress at work. Not only could a lack of sleep cause decreased productivity but it can also affect aspects such as decision making and confidence.
Some of the most notable statistics to take from this and other polls include:
• Of 744 workers questioned, 28% believe that the stress they deal with at work has a negative effect on their sleep pattern every night.
• Over a third of workers are concerned about how work-related stress could be affecting them both physically and mentally.
• 28% of people are concerned about how working in front a screen affects their eyes, 22% are worried about back and neck injuries and 18% get stressed about the possibility of repetitive strain injury.
• 90% of UK professionals in the IT industry are considering a change of job due to stress and up to a third of GPs would retire within the next five years in order to avoid the stress of the health service.
How Can Employers Address Modern Stress?
There are many ways in which employers can decrease the levels of stress present within their office or workplace. It begins by identifying stress as something real and tangible and changing the way in which it is viewed. Stress can be hard to both identify and measure so it is important for employers to be adequately trained in recognising when employees become anxious. The Chartered Management Institute has some tips on how to cultivate a new environment of stress acceptance and improvement. These include:
• Learn to praise and reward employees rather than only offering negative feedback. Employees who are only spoken to by the upper echelons when they have done something wrong will undoubtedly become stressed as they begin to negatively rate their performance.
• Make sure staff know that management care about their wellbeing. Hold regular one-on-one meetings with staff to make sure they are being provided with all the necessary resources in order to do their job to the best of their ability, and allow them the opportunity to speak openly about what might make their job more enjoyable.
• Make the work/life balance one of your top priorities! Although employers may want more weight to be put on productivity, a healthy work/life balance will directly influence staff to work better and with increased vigour.
• Help those who have had time off with stress return to work without stigma, promoting new ways of managing stress and a healthy level of communication both with peers and managers. Let returning staff know that there is no pressure initially and that HR’s doors are open should any problems occur.
No matter what the personality type or industry, stress can manifest itself in many different ways. As online recruitment specialists we see first-hand the stress people suffer when looking for a job or changing jobs – it’s a real issue and although there are positives to take, we should be able to work with stress rather then let it get to work on ourselves.
The important thing to remember is that stress does not have to be a negative aspect within a work environment. Employers can help create a whole new identity for stress, less concerned with negativity and anxiety and more concerned with motivation and excitement.
"The Chartered Management Institute has some tips on how to cultivate a new environment of stress acceptance and improvement."