James is stressed out. He thought of getting away from work for a while so he can hit the reset button and bounce back to work no longer feeling frustrated, anxious, and restless. All of which he had been struggling to fight with as the pandemic wore on. However, the vacation he thought he sorely needed did not work.
Before COVID-19 brought the world to its knees, James was a successful high-ranking accountant for one of the nation’s prodigious corporations, a well-known number savant who coped well with stress and addressed challenges with a steadfast, head-on attitude.
But now, he struggles to get a good night’s sleep. He lacks the will to exercise and is putting on a few pounds. Sometimes, he thinks his heart is going to explode in his chest for no particular reason. He’s having trouble focusing on his tasks, gets easily irritated with colleagues, and quickly gets angry with his wife and children. With their workplace buckling under the pressure; the corporation likely on the verge of losing several businesses due to extended lockdowns, and the dramatic shift they had to experience at home, James is most likely overworked, overstressed, and exhausted.
Do you know anyone in your team who is like James? Or could James be you?
Many people right now are experiencing unprecedented levels of stress brought on by the pandemic, especially at the workplace with many of us now working online from home. Who knew working from home could also be this distressing?
We are really more stressed than ever before, taking into account how modern life and working online may have amplified our stress and anxiety. The coping strategies that helped us in the past are now overwhelmed by the new kind of stress COVID-19 introduced to us. By being unable to manage stress and not knowing when to seek help, we’re putting our health, relationships, and career at risk.
Not many employers realise that it’s important now more than ever to check their employees’ stress levels to assess how these could affect their health and performance at work.
A recent Ipsos survey has found that “Half of Australians (51%) have reported feeling stressed due to changes in work routines and organisations, with the pandemic taking an emotional toll on employees both in Australia and around the world.”
According to Ipsos Australia Director, David Elliott, “The disruption in work and the resulting stress should be cause for concern for many employers. While 2021 may have brought a welcome change in date, it did not bring a sense of relief or hope for more stability. It is during these times that employers can demonstrate their commitment to their employees through recognition of the pressures and providing appropriate support by providing safe workplaces.”
The study found out that in Australia alone, the key work-related challenges resulting from the pandemic were the following:
- Increased anxiety around job security (51% said they had experienced this to a large or some extent vs 56% globally);
- Stress due to changes in work routines and organisation (51% large/some extent vs 54% globally);
- Difficulty finding a work-life balance (45% large/some extent vs 50% globally); and
- For those working from home, feeling lonely or isolated when working from home (45% large/some extent vs 50% globally).
The Impacts of Workplace Stress on Employees
Remember that workplace stress not only affects the workers, it has adverse effects on your company’s performance as well. The toll it brings is evident in the employee’s physical health, mental health, and behaviour.
There are a lot of factors that contribute to stress at the workplace, from the layout of the office, noise, lighting to psychosocial factors like high job demands, inflexible working hours, bullying, and harassment to name a few. Too often, workers start feeling stressed out when the job requirements do not match their capabilities, resources, or their needs.
Stress is the gateway to burnout at work. When employees are exhausted, they have decreased professional efficacy and increased cynicism about their job.
They manifest like a domino effect; it starts as distress in response to stressors, it then leads to elevated blood pressure and anxiety, which increases the risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, immune deficiency, substance abuse, and mental disorders.
With these adverse health effects, stress at work eventually leads to poor employee productivity, low morale, increased absenteeism, higher number of days taken off work for doctor checkups, and growing healthcare costs incurred by employers. It is also linked to higher accident and injury rates and turnover rates, both of which augment administrative costs.
Therefore, your business will not be a money-making machine if your employees are too sickly to hustle.
How to Reduce Stress in the Workplace
Some companies in Australia have already pushed for mental health leave as part of their employee support program where employees are encouraged to take it whenever they feel like they need to. And while it helps a bit in reducing stress, it only treats the symptoms and not the root cause.
It’s more like a sticky plaster solution than a strategy to tackle the underlying cause of stress.
What makes mental health leave a tricky topic is that it puts the burden on the employee to manage their own stress, contrary to motivating senior staff to develop a support plan to help employees manage stress without them having to reach a point of needing a vacation in the first place. Because when these workers come back to work from a short leave, the stressors will still be there waiting for them.
Employers can prevent workplace stress, and it starts by identifying the potential sources of stress to employees and addressing them.
The first interventions require proactive measures to ward off stress by removing potential physical and psychosocial stressors in the workplace.
These may include:
- Reorganising the work environment
- Providing more work breaks
- Increasing employee participation in decision making
- Increasing time and resources for completing specific tasks
- Matching job description with employee skills and qualifications
- Developing clear promotion and reward systems
- Removing physical hazards and reducing worker’s exposure to occupational hazards
- Promote physical activities participation at work
The next interventions are focused on shifting the ways employees perceive and respond to stressors. These aim to help workers improve their ability to manage their stress and immediately detect stress-induced symptoms.
- Establishing employee support and training programs for coping with stress
- Cognitive behavioural training
- Routine health checks
The key to help workers overcome stress is to help them understand their own stress so that they can better harness their body and mind’s normal response to stress. People share a common physiological response to stress, but the stress each one experiences is uniquely theirs.
Identifying and describing their stress is a process of self-discovery, and the more they learn about their stress triggers and patterns the better they will harness their own stress response. No one can avoid stress completely. What we can do is to change the way we respond to stress.
With corporate wellness programs such as those that address workplace stress, your employees will feel that you individually value them more than your business’ bottom line.
For more than 40 years, the InSync Body Mind Life System has perfected a simple formula on how you can systematically reduce and manage stress in your life. You will acquire the knowledge and understanding of the mechanics of stress and how you create it, so you can develop the confidence to quickly shift your unhelpful beliefs and behaviours during stressful times.
The Stress-Free Living Course is a self-guided online course in video format where your employees can learn quick relief strategies and a variety of tools and practices to reduce stress in their lives. There is no experience or previous qualifications required to enrol in this course and they can complete this course at their own pace.
Learn more about our Stress-Free Living Course here: https://insyncbml.online/stress-course/