As the concept of workplace culture has gained traction, many organizations have worked hard to create positive environments where employees can thrive. However, despite some employers’ best efforts, many workplaces remain stressful, sending employees’ mental and physical health spiraling.
Some workplace stress is unavoidable, but nevertheless, employees need to gain the skills and strategies for keeping chronic stress in check. Here are a few ways employees can prioritize their health and wellness as they navigate a stressful workplace.
Identify Individual Causes of Stress
Many workplace stresses are systemic, meaning they result from how a workplace is organized and what type of culture the workplace espouses. Still, individual workers within a workplace will experience specific stresses, and identifying those causes of stress can give workers the opportunity to mitigate and overcome them. Some of the most common causes of workplace stress include:
Excessive workloads. When there is too much to do and not enough time or team power to do it, employees feel stress.
Work that doesn’t engage or challenge. Most people find pleasure in the opportunity to test their abilities, so easy and routine work can be a cause of stress.
Limited opportunity for growth or advancement. The best workers aren’t looking to stay in entry-level roles forever, so if they don’t see a way up their career ladder, they will experience stress.
Unclear demands and expectations. Leadership can be a significant cause of stress if leaders tend to issue conflicting or vague requests to employees.
Lack of autonomy. One study found that a lack of control over one’s work is one of the most significant causes of workplace stress that can result in deadly health conditions.
Low salary. When an individual worker isn’t earning enough to cover their basic needs, they will feel stress at work and at home.
An individual’s stress might not be caused by such substantial issues as these; a worker might become stressed by a cluttered work area or a noisy coworker. It might be useful to make a weighted list of workplace stresses, from most stress-inducing to least, so workers know which concerns are most important to address.
Enroll in a Stress Management Course
Many employees aren’t equipped with the tools and techniques to manage their stress. Even within a positive corporate culture, workers can become stressed if they don’t know how to prioritize self-care. An online stress management course from a top university could provide invaluable lessons for workers, their teams and their broader organizations, helping everyone develop a healthier and more productive outlook.
Talk to Leaders About Sources of Workplace Stress
Few leaders want to suffuse their workplaces with undue stress; not only is it cruel to cause employees excess stress, but because stress typically results in lower productivity, employers want to keep their workers as stress-free as possible. It can be beneficial for employees to approach their leadership with concerns about the causes of stress. If an immediate supervisor isn’t receptive to an employee’s concerns, that worker might contact a higher-up. A group of workers acting together can have more impact on leadership than one worker alone. Additionally, it is important that employees offer solutions to the stress situation, so they can work with leadership to overcome workplace stress sooner.
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
In some cases, workplaces experience windows of high stress that eventually pass. In the meantime, workers should try to reduce the effects of stress by ensuring their overall lifestyle is healthy and positive. It is important to eat whole foods, stay hydrated and get enough weekly exercise. Additionally, workers should try to establish boundaries around their work; they might let coworkers and clients know that they will be unavailable after 6 PM, for instance. Finally, it is critical that employees find a way to relax, perhaps with meditation, a hot bath, oil painting or some other relaxing daily experience.
Look for New Employment
Employees have only so much control over the stressfulness of their work environment. If leadership is unable or unwilling to reduce the stress levels of their workforce, workers might have no other option but to find new employment at an organization that places positive workplace culture as a high priority.
Everyone benefits from lower stress levels in the workplace. Workers should do what they can to better understand the sources of stress affecting them at work. Then, they can work with peers and superiors to reduce everyone’s stress into the future.
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