Workplace stress is responsible for over $190 billion dollars in annual U.S. healthcare costs, but it’s costly in more ways than one. Stress causes low engagement and turnover and can result in as much as $300 billion in lost productivity for organizations across the country. In extreme cases, stress can cause heart disease, high blood pressure, alcoholism and mental illness. It’s important for executives and employees alike to recognize the serious implications of stress and take steps to help reduce stress in the workplace, doing so helps the wellbeing of your employees and the company itself.
Take a Deep Breath
After a tense conversation or draining meeting, take some time to regain your balance and center yourself. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth slowly and gather your thoughts. Think about all the good things in your life while doing this. If you’re feeling your confidence waver, list ten things you’re grateful for while taking these deep breaths. This might seem corny, but research at the Mayo clinic confirms these kinds of gratitude practices help to create a positive mindset. And that’s good for your health.
To Do: End meetings by reminding employees to take a few deep breaths before getting back to work. Try some dialogue like “Great meeting, don’t forget to take a deep breath before jumping back in.”
Schedule Breaks and Take Them
90% of employees who take regular lunch breaks are more productive than those who don’t. It’s tempting to squeeze in as much as possible in your day but that’ll leave you drained and stressed. In the morning when you’re mapping out your day, be intentional about penciling in breaks. Most importantly, actually take those breaks. Be sure you aren’t spending your whole break on social media, too. A break might feel like an opportune time to catch up on several social media platforms, but that’s not the case. Spending your break this way could cause you to feel anxious and lonely when you return to your desk since excessive social media usage has been proven to cause feelings of social isolation and anxiety. Instead, take a short walk around the office or get outdoors.
To Do: Take regular brain breaks and encourage employees to do the same. We recommend 5-10 minutes for every hour worked. Respect other’s break time and allow them to recharge without interruptions.
Learn to Say “No” or “Not Right Now”
Being the “yes person” in the office offers a great feeling of capability and value, but can be exhausting. Consistently sweeping in to save the day is time-consuming and eventually, your coworkers may take advantage of your kindness. Practice saying “no” (politely) or saying “not right now” without guilt. Warning: this can be very difficult for certain personalities and will take some getting used to.
To Do: While you can’t police employees to say no, make it a point to cultivate a culture of accountability to help prevent situations where one person is consistently the catch-all when last minute items come up.
When You’re Off the Clock, Be Off the Clock
Easier said than done, right? Prevent burnout by protecting your personal time. Researchers at Lehigh and Colorado State Universities found that employees who read their emails at home had worse health and greater anxiety levels, as did their partners in comparison to those who did not read their emails at home.
Make an effort to limit how often you check your email outside of work hours. Your personal time is for recharging, so you can be inspired to go back to work with a positive attitude. If it must be done, schedule a time for checking emails outside of work hours, like after the gym or right before bed. Your family will thank you for compartmentalizing your work and making them a priority at home.
To Do: Things come up and it’s not always possible to leave work completely behind. If it can wait until tomorrow, leave it be. If it can’t, let employees know the signifiers like URGENT or NEEDS ATTN. noted in the subject lines.
Take Sleep Seriously
Did you know an estimated 60 million Americans do not get sufficient sleep? 72% of managers noted difficulty concentrating on tasks because of lack of sleep. This issue isn’t just affecting employee mental health, it costing your organization. For the average worker, insomnia leads to the loss of 11.3 days worth of productivity each calendar year. That’s the equivalent of $2,280 per employee.
Sleep quality is an indicator of overall health. Don’t cut your sleeping time short as it is an essential time for the body to restore. Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep. However, the national average is just 6.8 hours/night. Here are some tips for a better night’s rest that you may want to post in the office or pass on to your team!
- Refrain from using electronics an hour before bed
- Sleep in a very dark room. Turn off lamps and night lights. Invest in heavy curtains.
- Keep your room cool. Between 65 and 68 degrees is best.
- Buy a mattress you adore. You spend a lot of time in your bed; you should feel as comfortable as possible.
We know there will always be stress in the workplace, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take steps to reduce these negative emotions. One small step at a time can help improve your work environment to result in a more productive team, less turnover and increased company morale. Ready to take a big step toward achieving these goals for your organization? See how RethinkCare can help you get there.
About the Author
Retired Founder and CEO of Whil and former President of Headspace
Joe is an entrepreneur in the digital wellness space, retired Founder and CEO of Whil and former President of Headspace, and spent fifteen years as a global COO in public companies. He’s an alumnus of Harvard Business School and a regular contributor to Forbes, Business Insider and The Huffington Post. He’s worked in over 50 countries and travels the world speaking on topics including disruption, culture, resiliency and mindfulness.