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We all face daily challenges in today's complicated and demanding world. ACA’s Counseling Corner Blog offers thoughtful ideas, suggestions, and strategies for helping you to live a happier and healthier life.

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Apr 21, 2021

Work Related Stress: What Is It and How Can We Reduce It?

Contrary to popular belief, stress is a perfectly normal bodily response to change. Our bodies are even engineered to not just experience stress, but to also react to it in ways that, in small doses, are productive. Stress signals your brain to start producing cortisol, which raises your heart rate and blood pressure, forcing your body and mind to stay alert and awake for longer and perform harder tasks. When survival depended on staying awake and agile for fear of predators, stress was a literal lifesaver. Now that times have changed, stress (when stressors persist for a long period of time without periods of relaxation) is now known to be the slow and silent killer.     

Today, given that the majority of us spend a substantial amount of our time at work, it is no surprise that work-related stress is listed as one of the most significant causes for stress in our daily lives. Countless studies and research tell the same story: job requirements, short-staffed workplaces and job insecurity causes workers to feel stress. As a result, this takes a toll on their sleep, health, relationships, productivity and sense of well-being. According to recent surveys by the American Psychological Association, 8 in 10 workers say they are stressed by at least one thing at work. About 1 in 2 workers in low-paying jobs say their job has a negative effect on their stress levels, while about 4 in 10 in medium- and high-paying jobs say the same. In addition to ‘normal’ workplace stress (which shouldn’t be normal), this past year we all had the opportunity to experience a whole new host of stressors related to the global pandemic that brought most of us to our brink.

Considering preexisting workplace stressors such as performance evaluations, customer relationships, job standards, coworkers, as well as heightened uncertainty caused by the pandemic, employers are left with a demand to assuage and aide employee’s needs for reduced stress in the workplace. The benefits of a stress-free workplace come as a surprise to none, but it should be noted that a reduction in stress in workplace environments boosts productivity, morale and has shown to increase employee loyalty and decrease turnover. Knowing that a healthier workplace that caters to the mental health of its employees is beneficial to all, how do employers go about implementing change?

Below are five simple ways employees can help employees manage and reduce stress: 

  1. Talk About It:
    • The very first step towards addressing an issue is to generate awareness and dialogue. Let your employees know of changes and expectations and provide a safe space for them to share their concerns. Make sure employees know about mental health resources and work on actively creating a workplace environment that makes employees feel comfortable asking and receiving help. Some proactive ways of establishing and promoting mental health and stress management in the workplace include offering teletherapy, access to mental health webinars, meditation rooms and times, as well as guidance on stress reducing practices and techniques.
  2. Change Starts Top Down: 
    • As we all know, change must start from the top, therefore it is up to managers and employers to lead by example. In order to create a safe and productive environment for our employees, it is paramount that managers keep their own emotions managed and in check. For leaders, it’s necessary to prevent negativity, anger and anxiety from clouding dialogues and interactions with employees. In addition, it is essential for managers to take their own advice by taking breathers when necessary and setting aside time to destress each day. Leaders in every organization must destigmatize mental health by expressing the need for time off should the occasion arise. Likewise, taking regular breaks creates a better frame of mind, and shows employees that it’s okay to take some time out.
  3. Encourage Movement:
    • We all know that a sedentary lifestyle is detrimental to our health, this does not exclude the workplace. Movement not only gets our blood flowing but produce clarity and endorphins. Encourage employees to start with small changes by providing tools like a standing desk or setting up times to stretch and decompress throughout the day. Simply going for a walk or a stretching session will help employees relax and re-focus. Finally, last but not least, be mindful of your employee’s emotional needs and time.
  4. Make Your Employees Feel Valued
    • An employee who loves and thrives at their job is one who in turn feels valued by their employer. There is no greater stress to an employee than feeling disposable and replaceable. Thus, it is important to communicate with employees and boost morale by praising and acknowledge even the smallest workplace accomplishments.
  5. Respect Time Off the Clock:
    • While we all understand the need to meet deadlines and quotas, a surefire way to result in employee burnout is by overworking employees. Respect employee’s time out of the office, and limit interaction outside work hours. It has been proven time and time again that employees with fruitful lives outside the office walls are more efficient, creative and productive. 
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