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4 Ways to Combat Workplace Stress

(originally posted on blog)

Stressed? You’re not alone. The Global Organization for Stress reports that 6 in 10 workers in major global economies are reporting increased workplace stress, costing our shared economies billions of dollars in lost productivity, increased health care costs, absenteeism, and a host of other negative outcomes caused by workplace stress.

Not all stress is bad. If you took a psychology class (or maybe like me you’re a radical positivity activist who revels in this kind of research), you may recall that a certain level of stress is actually necessary for people to be productive. The Yerkes-Dodson Law suggests that performance actually increases with mental or physiological stress… but only to a point, and that’s where we want to step in and find ways to manage stress so it doesn’t derail our best efforts.

The World Health Organization has identified workplace stress as an important part of occupational health. “[T]he most stressful type of work is that which values excessive demands and pressures that are not matched to workers’ knowledge and abilities, where there is little opportunity to exercise any choice or control, and where there is little support from others.” We can’t always fix the situation, but there are ways we can lessen the impact and make our work experience – and our lives – more enjoyable in the process.

1. Build your social network – at work! You already spend most of your waking hours at work, so maximize those opportunities. Positive psychology identifies social connection as one of the best indicators of professional and personal success. People under stress may find themselves self-isolating instinctively. Schedule a coffee break or lunch with a friend, or make time for that 1:1 with somebody you’ve been meaning to get to know better. And don’t limit yourself to colleagues who work on the same campus as you!

2. Smile for the (Skype) camera! Speaking of remote colleagues, we know that a significant percentage of communication is non-verbal, and 87% of remote workers said they felt more connected when teams use videoconferencing. Body language, tone of voice, and gestures all play a big part in successfully communicating with others, and yet we often opt for email or text messages rather than a phone call or a video chat. Try turning on the camera during those 1:1’s or smaller group meetings, and then smile! (You’ll decrease stress, build your immunity, and just generally feel better, for a start!) If you find video conferencing technology a challenge, ask I.T. for help.

3. Work smarter, not harder. Look at your calendar. Are you double booked for meetings? Do you have enough time to complete the tasks that those meetings add to your to-do list? Do you find yourself working through lunch because there just isn’t enough time to get everything done? Encourage your teams to only schedule meetings that are necessary, and practice good meeting habits when you really do need to get together.

4. Walk it off. Whether you work in Greenfield, from your home office in Australia or anywhere in between, long days sitting at a desk, driving to a customer site or standing at a work station can wreak havoc on your mood, your health and your productivity. Consider a walking meeting and take your team along, especially if they’re virtual too. Schedule brief walking breaks throughout the week – and put them on your calendar to make them real. Speed things up to harness the power of endorphins, or include some friends and boost your social connections as you get in those extra steps. However you do it, getting up and moving for just a few minutes is a powerful stress-buster and leads to improved creativity, too!

What’s your favourite tip for defusing workplace stress?



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