I wanted to honor Stress Awareness Week, which began November 4th, with a blog of some of my findings and knowledge around workplace stress.
I personally believe, from my experience with my own companies, running divisions for a Fortune 50, and consulting for over 100 companies there are some misnomers about workplace stress and how to reduce it. I will share what I believe from what I’ve seen and how my leadership principles can help lead to reduced workplace stress.
I will also share a couple of key insights from my #1 international best-seller on stress management “Let Them See You Sweat: Lessons I’ve Learned On My Personal Journey With Stress”.
There was a great study down in the UK with a tremendous amount of data around workplace stress. Also, from what I’ve seen both in working with clients in the UK as well as spending time there, I believe the stress in the US is worse. Reference article: HERE
The UK study showed 94% of workers experienced workplace stress at least weekly with the key side effects being trouble sleeping, anxiety, irritability, tiredness (no doubt due to difficulty sleeping) and low mood. Over half found themselves exhausted and trying to think through job issues when they got home. 43% said they couldn’t switch it off.
And a US study does show that our younger generation (18-29) has the highest stress levels. Their belief is it’s due to job stability along with being underutilized.
I also believe, that as our generations are more connected and the inability to disconnect only rises, stress increases.
If you go back to the stone age when I ran divisions for Pepsi, there was a time you only had phones, mail, interoffice mail and face to face conversations. For emergencies, you had a pager or possibly some sort of walkie talkie.
You weren’t checking E-Mails or texts when you went home or over the weekend or when you went on vacation. While that connection obviously provides huge benefits, if we don’t find a way to disconnect, stress will continue to increase.
One habit I personally changed to disconnect is one of the things I do for exercise is I walk our neighborhood. It’s hilly and challenging and it’s also quite beautiful with views of our hills on one side and Mt. Diablo (I live in Northern California) on the other.
I used to bring my phone with me as I thought what a great time to multi-task. I can catch up on phone calls while I exercise as long as the person on the other end didn’t mind my heavy breathing as I climbed our hills.
One day I decided to disconnect. Now when I walk our neighborhood, I enjoy the scenery. I say hi to neighbors. I reflect on things. I may think about business things but only in a way that serves me as I can have a clearer mind to just brainstorm (no stressful topics).
On vacation, I won’t tell you that I turn off E-Mail completely. I don’t. Personally I find it less stressful to not worry about coming back to 500 or 1000 E-Mails. First of all, where possible, I let others manage my E-Mails while I’m gone. Secondly, when not possible, I will block out a half or an hour and knock them out. Then I put them away and I’m done.
I delegate everything I possibly can that comes in and let others know I’ll address when I return. I also know people who don’t respond at all and let their out of office be their voice. I highly respect and encourage disconnecting to the greatest extent you can without creating additional stress for yourself.
Let me share one of my key findings from my book to help reduce workplace stress. I believe that a lot of the physical reactions to stress don’t occur real-time. I believe they are delayed. We’re built, through our production of adrenaline and cortisol to deal with some stress. To me, the issue is when we never stop pushing. And, if we continue to push after the stressful time as passed, or we just move on to our next stressful situation, our body will finally say enough is enough.
This is where my philosophy of “Creating an Entrepreneurial Workplace®” kicks in. If our methodology of dealing with stressful situations, hitting productivity numbers, completing initiatives, is to drive our people and ourselves as hard as we can every day, live in a traditional autocratic environment, and worse yet, micromanage, eventually we burn our people and ourselves out.
Because you know once you get past one challenge or hit your numbers for one day or one week or one month, expectations, MBO’s, goals don’t decrease.
If you learn to embrace an Entrepreneurial Workplace, create ownership throughout an organization and give those closest to the situation the opportunity to have a voice and make things better, buy-in and sustainability occur at a much higher level.
If you have to watch over (or hover over) your people every day for them to do their job, it just creates burnout and there is no sustainability. But, if you create an environment in which your team is actively involved in critical initiatives, solving problems and making meaningful decisions, job satisfaction increases significantly, your people are more driven and motivated and stress for all becomes reduced.