Stress Busters

A study conducted by the human resource consultant firm, Watson Wyatt, indicates that stress in the workplace is the most frequent reason employees contemplate leaving their jobs. Unfortunately, the study also revealed that very few employers are actually taking steps to address or reduce stress in the workplace even when they are aware that it affects employee performance.

Job related stress is an oft-cited reason for health issues resulting in disability and, in more extreme cases, it is also the cause of workplace violence. Most expect that certain careers, such as jobs in law enforcement or in emergency medical care, are more stressful than others, but other careers where employees are required to work long hours, deal frequently with the public, or where employees experience strife amongst themselves can raise feelings of stress to unhealthy levels.

Effectively dealing with workplace stress is possible. To do so, a person must first acknowledge the source of their stress and acknowledge that they do have a measure of control in how they react to that source. Often people feel overwhelmed and powerless in situations of workplace stress or they react in ways that are not productive to the work environment, which can add to stress levels. For example, if the source of stress is that an employee is unorganized or is working with a team of people who are unorganized, stress can accumulate as deadlines may be missed or important tasks are put off until the last minute. Understanding that this is a source of stress for some and even a source of tension among employees means that control can be gained by focusing more on becoming better organized.

Being more assertive and learning to say no whenever possible is another way to reduce stress at work. Of course, this doesn't mean that employees can avoid their normal responsibilities, but when an employee is consistently asked to work late at the last minute or is consistently called in to work on scheduled off day, stress can be the result of that employee not knowing how to say no when they feel they are being overworked. While an employee may be passionate about their work and may want to impress or set an example for others in the organization, the facts are that everyone needs time off to rejuvenate.

Taking small breaks intended to distract from work is also recommended when stress is rising. Five minutes of fresh air or even a few minutes away from your desk may be all that's needed to help refocus and take stress levels down. While no one should make a habit of taking constant breaks, it's better to take a moment for a few deep breaths in favor of being more productive than it is to keep plowing away at a frustrating project while losing focus, objectivity, and creativity.

For additional reading, including suggestions on handling workplace stress, be sure to visit the following sites:

Mayo Clinic: Tips for Coping With Stress

Mental Health America: Factsheet: Coping With Stress Checklist

BusinessWeek – Dealing With Stress on the Job

The American Institute of Stress: Job Stress

Coping With Job Stress – Psych Central

Dealing With Stress at Work: Workplace Wellness Tips

Managing Job Stress: 10 Strategies for Coping and Thriving

Coping With Work Overload

Top 7 Ways to Beat Stress at Work

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health