Workplace stress is an occupational hazard at any position and in any organization. However, there are a number of ways to reduce workplace stress. Let’s look at a few reasons to reduce stress, and some ways that you can create a healthier, happier workplace.
Stress acts as a barrier to productivity, health and happiness. Prolonged stress takes a toll on our bodies, our minds, and our work – and as with many physical reactions, it all starts with the brain.
What happens in your brain when you’re stressed?
A stress response involves the release of “stress hormones” such as adrenaline and cortisol into the blood stream. These hormones help the body adjust to and escape from threatening situations with effects like increased blood flow, improved respiration, and quicker instinctual reaction. However, other important functions, such as digestion, memory and executive function are partially or completely shut down. In other words, stress response will help us flee a burning building or outrun a tiger, but prolonged stress will be negative when it comes to responding to mountains of emails, tight deadlines or conflict. The negative effect of chronic stress hormones will take a toll on your health.
Prolonged stress reaction is dangerous to your health
When you are faced with ongoing stress, your body will begin to feel the effects:
- The increased blood flow is hard on your heart, which must beat harder and faster – putting you at risk of a heart attack or other heart complications,
- The partial shut-down of the digestive system can lead to weight gain and irregularity,
- Reduced functioning in the reproductive system has its own set of consequences; and
- Executive functions in your brain will be partially disabled, reducing your capacity to problem solve, think strategically or creatively, and impact your interpersonal skills.
Not only will stress have a negative effect on your health, but it will also directly impact your performance at work. Stress may be the single most counter-productive and health-threatening element in the workplace and it’s up to leaders to work to mitigate workplace stress.
4 Ways Leaders can Reduce Workplace Stress
There are a number of ways to reduce stress in the workplace. Here are a few tricks:
- Don’t Create Emergencies: Before delegating a task, stop to consider how important it really is. Work with the task’s eventual owner to prioritize their activities and make sure the new task is attainable, relevant and manageable. You can stop creating emergencies for yourself, too, by evaluating your own tasks by the same criteria.
- Set Reasonable Deadlines: Allow your team members to set their own deadlines (or at least collaborate with them) based on the workload they have already. You’ll find that deadlines will be met more often, with higher quality output and less undue stress.
- Build a Relationship of true Openness with Upper Management: A lot of the stress that you pass onto your team comes from stress that has been passed down to you. Take responsibility for your own well-being by responding appropriately and realistically to requests from your boss. It may seem difficult, I know you have lived the consequences of accepting deadlines that are too stressful for you and your team to meet.
- Encourage Employees (and Yourself) to Learn Stress Management Techniques: We’ve covered a few topics here that can help, but there are many other ways to mitigate stress. Take the time to explore options (exercise, mindfulness, diet shifts, self-awareness, conscious communication, etc.) – maybe now is the time to formally learn techniques to manage stress.
As always, we are here to help. If your health is being effected by stress, it is your responsibility to take steps to improve your circumstances. The Leadership Group offers a program called The Ultimate Leadership Training, which shows leaders how to manage underpresssure, set boundaries, and perform better. To learn more about how effective stress management can improve the health and performance of you and your team, give us a call at (819) 827-8000.