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More meaningful ways to manage stress at the workplace

Part Two: Some practical ways to address stress while on the job.

There’s no doubt that dealing with work-related stress creeps into everyone’s job — no matter whether we love our jobs or are searching for greener pastures. For some, stress can play an even bigger role in the day, and that can start to take control. In fact, one in four Canadians surveyed by Leger and Monster Canada said they’ve even quit a job because of work stress, and a further 17 per cent have considered that option.

In short, job stress is dangerous to physical health, mental well-being and business productivity.

  • When Morneau Shepell polled 1,575 Canadians who have experienced illness or mental health issues in the workplace, more than one third (34 per cent) blamed work-related stress as the main culprit
  • According to a UK government agency overseeing workplace health and safety, the number of British workers suffering from job-related stress or anxiety jumped from 526,000 in 2016-17 to 595,000 the following year
  • The same UK stats indicate work-related stress was responsible for more than half (57 per cent) of all lost work days in Britain last year

In part one, we explored five ways to manage work-related stress. While some causes may never be completely eliminated, the associated stress can be managed. Here are some additional strategies to consider.

‘Turn off’ outside of work hours

manage stress at the workplace

It’s tempting in this mobile, connected age to stay in contact with the office 24/7. But a Virginia Tech study found that even when employees weren’t at work (for example, when they were at home, sick or on vacation), simply glancing at their phones to check for work-related emails and other office communication raised their anxiety levels.

The researchers concluded that the mere expectation or anticipation of constantly monitoring work communication out of the office increases employees’ stress, even if they don’t actually receive any messages. So if you can, set communication boundaries with bosses, coworkers and clients. Then stick to them.

Take mindful breaks

If you don’t have the time (or desire) to hit up a yoga class at lunch or after work, try a meditation app like Take a Break! The free Android and iOS app plays soothing music, nature sounds and voice-guided meditations.

It also includes a seven-minute meditation session titled ‘Work Break Relaxation.’ With earbuds, there’s no need to leave your desk — and your coworkers won’t suspect you’re on the way to ‘Serenity now!

What really works

manage stress at the workplace

Workplace wellness programs have been gaining popularity in recent years. To save businesses the time (and stress) of test driving them all, the International Federation of Employee Benefit Plans asked HR pros around the world which wellness initiatives work best.

Although the results are based on which programs saved companies the most money in healthcare benefit costs (rather than on employee feedback), the findings are at least indicative of the types of initiatives that can improve workers’ well-being.

The top-rated workplace wellness offerings were:

  • Health risk assessments (cited by 88 per cent of companies)
  • Health coaching (76 per cent)
  • Encouragement to use vacation days and time off (69 per cent)
  • On-site walking paths (54 per cent)
  • Offering leadership opportunities outside the job hierarchy structure (52 per cent)
  • Stress management programs (45 per cent)
  • Free or subsidized wearable fitness trackers (41 per cent)

The study noted that other popular workplace offerings these days include wellness education websites, nutrition counselling, wellness competitions and on-site meditation/mindfulness programs.

If you’re interested in any of those, find out if they’re already available at your company. If not, consider spearheading them yourself.

Look closer

When you’re already feeling pressure and anxiety at work, it can be tough to stop and examine exactly what’s causing it. You can’t start managing work stress, however, if you don’t really know what’s at the heart of it.

StressAssess.ca might help. Employees can use the online assessment tool to anonymously gauge their workplace stress levels and identify potential causes. There’s also a company-wide deployment version of the tool, which was developed in conjunction with the Canadian Centre For Occupational Health and Safety.

This may help manage the negative side of stress, which can snowball if not addressed, as CCOHS also explains. “Feelings of negative stress usually increase when people believe the demands of a situation are greater than their ability to deal with it. Stress may prevent them from being productive. In some cases, people avoid dealing with a problem entirely, which may make the situation worse and increase stress to them and others around them.”

On the other hand, the organization also explains how stress can also be a positive motivator in some situations. “Stress is about reactions people have to the situations they face. These reactions are not the same from person to person. Some stress is expected and can be a positive force in our lives. In fact, it is often what provides us with the energy and motivation to meet our daily challenges both at home and at the workplace. This type of stress response is what helps you “rise” to a challenge and meet your goals such as deadlines, sales or production targets, or finding new clients.”

In either case, understanding where your stress is coming from may help you better assess the situation, harness the positive, and manage your body’s reactions.

 

Up Next: Follow these steps to become a better leader.

Christine Wong

Christine Wong is a journalist based in Toronto who has covered a wide range of startups and technology issues. A former staff writer with ITBusiness.ca, she has also worked as a reporter for the Canadian Economic Press and in broadcast roles at SliceTV and the CBC.

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