Under Pressure: Why Being Number One Isn’t Always A Good Thing! Part Two

Posted By: Margaret Stockley | Published on : December 14th, 2018

job pressure

Is work-life balance possible? At this time of year?

This year, 4 out of 5 employees were affected by stress, that’s 104 million employees out of 130 million full-time employees (80%). What’s worse, is that 96 million (74%) of people have felt so stressed that they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope!

We see the results of stress in reduced productivity, more frequent excuses for not turning up to work, and increased health costs. However, we all have different ways of dealing with the stresses that arise in our life and not everyone freaks out running around the room.

Some people internalize how they are actually feeling. They exude calmness when faced with a situation that is stressful, even ones that they have experienced multiple times.

That can be a good thing. Imagine if you were injured and were in hospital. The last thing you would need is a doctor or nurse wringing their hands or choking up. You expect them to remain calm under pressure day in, day out.

Thankfully there are a variety of methods and ideas that each one of us can utilize depending on the event, situation, or profession.

As I mentioned in Part One of this series, a 2018 study by the National Institute of Health suggests that even small daily stress factors can lead to health problems later in life.

And according to the American Psychological Association, this is compounded by the number one contributor to stress, JOB PRESSURE, caused by; tension with co-workers, bosses, and an overload of work.

Being number one isn’t always a good thing!

This predicament is further compounded by:

  • Longer working hours
  • Higher workloads
  • Shorter deadlines
  • Increased expectations

These expectations have all been shown to contribute to the rise in workplace anxiety and pressure. If a worker does a good job and only gets noticed for slip-ups, over time their daily dose of stress rises and continues to feed the problem of stress, worsening symptoms and the situation. It is estimated that 1 million Americans miss work due to stress-related complaints.

It may be no surprise that happiness grows when stress shrinks. The Robert Half agency wrote in August 2018: “Workers who are finding balance between their jobs and personal lives are twice as happy, more productive and show greater loyalty to their employers than those struggling to find balance.”

One of the biggest challenges we face as leaders is assessing our workplace culture and figuring out what the best options are for guiding our employees over the life-cycle of their careers.

Thinking about your own place of work:

  • How frequently do you recognize a job well done?
  • What is the relationship like between co-workers and senior managers?
  • How does your organization reinforce positive behavior?

KPMG, one of the top four auditors worldwide was looking to see what they could do to increase the wellbeing of their employees. They focused on the research associated with happiness due to the overwhelming evidence in its favor. After a few weeks, their employees learned that happiness is not only an advantage at work but it is possible to achieve. In order to shift to a mindset of happiness, employees were given five free or low-cost activities to promote happiness in the present moment instead of waiting for it in the future after, for example, the successful completion of a lengthy project.

The five areas they focused on were:

  1. Gratitude: Write down three new things you are grateful for each day
  2. Focusing on positive experiences: Write for 2 minutes a day describing one positive experience you had over the past 24 hours
  3. Exercise: For 10 minutes a day
  4. Meditation: For 2 minutes, focusing on your breath going in and out
  5. Random acts of kindness: Write one, quick email first thing in the morning thanking or praising a member on your team

Since stressors vary by profession, there are additional strategies that you can implement to assist you with lowering stress levels in your own workplace and increasing happiness and engagement.

As we look towards the new year, schedule time to talk to workers about the specific conditions that drive stress in a particular job, things like:

  • a harmful or unsafe workplace,
  • understaffing
  • variable hours
  • overwork or expanded responsibilities due to downsizing
  • inadequate or failing equipment or materials
  • lack of regular and clear supervisor feedback

Stress has been linked to many of the leading causes of injury and illness, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, accidents and suicide and at this time of year especially, stress is felt emotionally and physically and is often a symptom of another underlying cause such as financial or health worries.

Six ways to de-stress

Consider ways to allow employees to take a break from stressors. The following areas are some methods that can be utilized in multiple professions:

  1. Teach how to recognize the signs of stress and take a break from the stressor
  2. Learn relaxation techniques to reduce tension and increase a sense of wellbeing
  3. Spend time outdoors, meetings and/or lunch
  4. Build strong relationships both at work and with personal friends
  5. Daily exercise, even walking outdoors for twenty minutes
  6. Send a note to someone. So often we think positive thoughts but do not communicate them

Combined with the right policies, procedures, and input you will be able to promote a safe environment and a culture of wellbeing where employees know that their workplace is one where they are valued, supported, and they can be their best.

Margaret Stockley is the CEO of POWCERT, providing wellness program certification to help managers increase employee engagement and reduce company costs. She is the author of “Transforming Workplace Wellness” and co-author of “Inner Knowledge.” For further information on POWCERT certification or workplace wellness programs contact Margaret.Stockley@powcert.com