“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” – William James
Stress is a killer – everyone knows that but it is inescapable too. It exists in every sphere of our life but we will focus on stress in the workplace. Managing such stress is the joined responsibility of the individuals and the company and its leaders. In a number of countries, it is a legal obligation on the part of employers to contain, manage and deal with stress in the workplace such that the people that work for them do fall sick – either physically or mentally. Stress in the workplace inevitably leads to friction amongst employees, conflicts with management, lowered output and an overall work environment that is unpleasant. Stressed out employees are irritable, have lowered self-esteem and are unable to focus on their work. With such kind of output and mind-set, it is obvious that soon the company’s offerings and customer service will take a beating, pushing customers away to competition.
Stress in the workplace, like other aspects of life, can be triggered by myriad reasons. This stress in turn leads to situations depending on how people react to stress. Some of the most common triggers are – actual job responsibilities – the schedule and kind of job, co-workers, work hours, direct supervisor and other such conditions in the workplace. Unmanaged stress in the workplace can have some serious repercussions and in countries where not managing workplace stress is punishable, it can add to the ‘heartburn’ of the company.
Very often managing stress in the workplace is overlooked or ignored because people do not want to acknowledge that it exists or are not confident of being able to tackle it head on. Managing stress is a highly useful and effective skill to build and must be made mandatory for all as part of training and coaching schedules. Ignoring or not managing stress in the workplace is a colossal error that can have limitless and widespread repercussions including affecting the emotional, physical and mental well-being of those who work in the office. This means that it is extremely important to manage stress.
We have discussed previously that for a company to remain effective, innovative and move forward, its workforce must be motivated, happy and free from friction and conflict. When there are high levels of stress employees will be the opposite of productive and will refuse to work as a team and will overall have lowered morale. How can a company expect such a workforce to care for its customers? To top of this situation, a company can be involved in expensive and embarrassing litigation since it is the legal duty for an employer to care for their staff’s well-being. Open communication, strong leadership, employee welfare programs, good incentives and schemes for staff and their families, sound career paths, rewards and recognition and good pay packages – are some of the key factors that can control and keep stress in the workplace at bay. It may seem like a highly cumbersome task and one that is better avoided, but managing stress in the workplace must be done, not just for the health of your most valuable resource but also to save your own company a lot of cost and wastage of other crucial resources.
Let us enlist for you why the management of stress in the workplace makes a lot of business sense:
- Decreases absenteeism – when staff members are stressed, they are more prone to being ill or taking time off just to stay away from office. This has serious effects on the productivity and work environment and also if they decide to claim compensation, it could prove even more costly.
- Lowers staff attrition – When one person in the office / team is affected by stress and they decide to leave, the job being done by the person will need to be managed by the remaining employees, thereby putting more work burden on them. With this added burden, the employees having to deal with this become frustrated leading them to also either leave or take unscheduled leave and time off.
- Keeps productivity at an acceptable level – when the staff members are happy their productivity rises and so does the quality of their work. With better work processes, congenial working environment, co-workers who are friendly – people are able to perform to their optimum.
- Leaders are more effective in providing guidance, support, mentoring and coaching to the staff especially when they feel stressed. If leaders experience stress and are unable to manage it, they would not prove to be helpful to the employees that turn to them for direction. When leaders consistently manage stress well they are more respected, liked and people would be willing to work with them even through trying situations and tough times. Being a good leader is more than just telling people what to do – it is about being present and working in situations others are unwilling to work in.
- Managing stress in the workplace lowers the number of distractions that employees are faced with. With stress as a distraction, employees are unable to work dedicatedly on projects and in meeting deadlines.
- Stress gives rise to conflicts and while conflicts in the workplace may be inevitable given the diverse workforces with varied personalities, opinions, beliefs, experiences and such, when managed they can actually be healthy. However, if these conflicts become a cause of friction, it will cause stress and unmanaged stress will lead to more confusion and frayed nerves which will be unhealthy for everyone involved.
- Stress in the workplace when left unmanaged has the ability to break down communication. Unless people communicate, share ideas, listen to each other and search for solutions of problems through dialogue there will be anger, bitterness and misunderstandings that would inevitably increase stress and tension for everyone. Smooth communication and sharing of ideas makes a cyclic process of congenial work environment and happy co-workers.
- Reduction of stress in the workplace, as mentioned, builds a feeling of trust and camaraderie. Co-workers work together as a team, are not afraid of looking out for each other and will even cover up a team mates work in case of personal emergencies. Such unity and congeniality goes a long way in ensuring that the quality and quantity of work output is at its optimum and everyone enjoys coming to the workplace.
Even though the world may have shrunk due to globalization and swift digitization, allowing people from across the globe to connect and do business at the click of a few buttons, stress in the workplace has become even more apparent and real than ever before. Rising competition – both for business and jobs – has made people insecure on matters that seemed non-existent earlier. The fear of losing one’s job, the scare of not being able to support one’s family or pay one’s bills, losing health insurance and other such very real fears have sky-rocketed stress levels for people. Stress never comes alone – it brings with it myriad repercussions, effects and signs. With people spending so much time in their offices, the management of stress in the workplace has become imperative. Without it the employees experience both physical and psychological distress which over a period of time can have serious health repercussions which ultimately would also affect the health of the company. To reduce stress in the workplace is one of the prime responsibilities of a company and its people and a thorough understanding of how to manage and deal with stress is no longer a nice to do – it is a must do and cannot be ignored any longer.