Help your employees beat workplace stress by modeling healthy ways to react and cope. (Image via Celestine Chua, Flickr)
We don’t get a break from workplace stress after the stressful holiday season. In fact, January is the most stressful month of the year, according to a 2014 Friends Life survey of 2000 people.
Now, more than ever, it is important to engage with employees and support a culture of kindness and gratitude.
The busy whirlwind of the holidays can lead to a buildup of past-due work in January, compounded by staffing shortages during winter vacation season. This month is also a time when many people put pressure on themselves to keep their New Year’s resolutions — a difficult task when professional obligations are mounting and bills from holiday extravagances are due.
So, how you can help your employees navigate this stressful time of year? Beating workplace stress takes personal and organizational resilience. It also means going against some of our most basic instincts. But once you train yourself and others to react smarter to stress, your workplace will benefit tremendously!
Stress vs. Challenge
What is workplace stress, anyway? According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), stress can be defined as “the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources or needs of the worker.”
But isn’t a little stress good? Not exactly, according to NIOSH.
NIOSH notes a distinction between stress and challenge. Where stress demotivates and drains, challenge motivates and energizes. When we meet a challenge, we are rewarded with a sense of relaxation and satisfaction.
“Thus, challenge is an important ingredient for healthy and productive work,” NIOSH concludes.
Stress, on the other hand, has serious ramifications that go deep. Individually, it can lead to poor health and even injury. On an organizational level, stress is a disastrous problem that drags down productivity, quality and happiness.
The symptoms of stress — depression, loneliness, isolation — are now at epidemic levels and cost the economy billions of dollars, says James R. Doty, founder and director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE).
Job stress is “far and away” the major source of stress for American adults and has “escalated progressively” over the past few decades, according to the American Institute of Stress.
“In New York, Los Angeles and other municipalities, the relationship between job stress and heart attacks is so well acknowledged that any police officer who suffers a coronary event on or off the job is assumed to have a work-related injury and is compensated accordingly (including a heart attack sustained while fishing on vacation or gambling in Las Vegas).”