Stress management in the workplace

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Why is stress management important in business?

Dr. Mateusz Grzesiak

According to the report “Stress in the workplace – legal status, counteracting and trade unions” over two-thirds of the Polish population lives in stress. A lack of adequate stress management is one of the most common mistakes made by managers. Workplace stress can be costly because it affects not only the well-being of an individual, but also the organisational performance of a team.

Negative impact on health

It is well known that stress has a negative impact on health. Chronic stress can weaken the immune system, exacerbate the symptoms of many autoimmune diseases and become a cause of diabetes or peptic ulcer disease. It directly translates into work organisation costs. According to the research, stress is responsible for 50-60 percent of all absenteeism in the workplace. In the UK in 2009-2010, the cost of stress-related work absence was estimated to be £9.8 million.


Each leader knows the importance of team motivation when it comes to its effectiveness. Long-term exposure to stress is one of the most common reasons for the motivation and concentration decrease of team members. Adequately managed stress is a motivating force for the team, especially in the last phase of a long-term project. Working at optimal stress levels also reduces the number of conflicts in the team, but excessive stress levels aggravate them even further. Working under stressful conditions also results in the emergence or intensification of burnout. Although it is commonly attributed to people with long work experience, it increasingly affects young people. The Central Institute for Labour Protection indicates that: Professional burnout is most often associated with young people who have started their careers in the past two to three years, and especially those who start with high idealistic expectations about their work and themselves.

Organisational costs

Working in stress also causes communication problems. Emotional communication impairs the clarity of the message and distorts the communicated facts, leading to errors and conflicts. According to the National Labour Inspectorate, more than half of workplace accidents are caused by human factors. The lack of stress management in the workplace is expensive for an employer for reasons such as decrease in productivity, deterioration in customer relationships, a negative impact on the company’s image.

How to manage stress in an organisation?

There are proven methods of managing stress in an organisation. Here are some examples:

  • Prevention – the most common cause of work-related stress is the quality or quantity overload of employees. Securing adequate resources and good work organisation will help to avoid stressful situations.
  • Finding the team’s needs – listening to the feedback of your subordinates and finding the appropriate conclusions is one of the manager’s most important skills.
  • Staff training – according to the CBOS report, entrepreneurs in Poland spend on average PLN 194 per year per employee on training, most of which is spent on OSH training. 40% of companies do not train their employees at all. Training staff in the context of soft skills, such as managing emotions, is a good way to build an effective team.
  • Better communication – a lack of conscious communication is the cause of most conflicts.

Leaders can manage it

Workplace stress can be your ally, because people who are better at dealing with it take the position of natural leaders. When the atmosphere in the workplace becomes tense, employees turn to the person who can remain calm.

What to do when you feel stressed yourself?

When you feel stressed, adhere to these ad hoc principles: quieten and slow down your breathing, change the place you’re at, turn on music, do something else, reach a memory of something pleasant in the past. Also act preventively, changing your lifestyle through meditation, sport, improving sleep quality, precise communication, time management and relinquishing toxic relationships. It is important for you to learn how to deal with stress. Look at challenges through the prism of what you learn from them. Confront the problems instead of running away from them. Raise your bar and search for that effort that motivates you to do more. Do not run away from the difficulty, but scale it. Without this, you cannot grow.

Don’t let yourself burn out! 5 scientific methods to avoid professional burnout

Just as it’s hard to cut anything with a blunt knife, when you burn out at work, you cannot achieve your goals. Overworking and stress are the main causes of professional burnout. Do not think that this problem does not concern you. Poles are a society which is working its way up and over 40% of us work more than 50 hours a week. Professional burnout is also a problem that increasingly affects young people. Research conducted in 2015 [Level of stress among U.S. adults by generation 2015] have shown that the millennials are the most stressed generation. As is known, it is better to prevent than cure, so in this article I present 5 scientifically proven ways to “sharpen the professional knife.”

Be active

Physical activity reduces stress and allows for more efficient processing of information. After analysing a so-called “runner’s high,” researchers have found that endorphins produced during long-term physical activity affect the part of the brain responsible for mood changes. In this way, physical activity improves your mood, reduces pain, stress and tension. In addition, a study conducted in 2013 at Leiden University showed that people who exercise four times a week are more able to think creatively than non-active people. Even a short-term physical effort improves brain functioning. During the test at Middlesex University, two groups were given the same problem to solve. The first group completed a series of physical exercises just before the test. The second one was resting for a long period of time. The physically active group presented much more solutions to the problem.

Do not close yourself on people

During the work day, find time to talk to a colleague sitting next to you. Pentland and Waber research conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have shown that this can have a positive effect on your productivity. Scientists have designed IDs with radio transmitters, microphones, microprocessors and motion sensor sets. These devices tracked inter alia a length of conversation between co-workers. The research has shown that people with the largest network and number of workplace interactions were also the most productive. The result was uninfluenced by the subject matter of the conversation, but as demonstrated by different study, some topics are better to be avoided. The Betterworks report highlighted the issue of discussion about politics in the workplace. 10% of respondents stated that political discussions led, to stress, decrease in quality of work and reduced productivity. Almost every other respondent witnessed a political discussion in the work that led to an argument.

Celebrate little victories

Sometimes we are so focused on a long-term goal that we forget to celebrate the smaller but still important steps we have taken to achieve it. Nevertheless, ticking off subsequent boxes from the to do list gives a sense of self-realisation and competence. In psychology, it is known as The Zeigarnik Effect, which states that uncompleted tasks are remembered better than the tasks done. On the other hand, the research by professors Baumeister and Masicampo “Consider It Done! Plan Making Can Eliminate the Cognitive Effects of Unfulfilled Goals” has shown a correlation between the sense of accomplishment of a given task and the ability to think creatively. Those who have brainstormed about a problem and did not complete the task they had received as a warm-up, found fewer solutions.

Develop your own ritual

In the intensity of your duties, find time for your daily ritual of regeneration. It may be a moment to drink your favourite coffee, have a nap or walk in the park. This is not about the length of the activity, but its repeatability. This will allow your body to get used to the rest and learn how to manage the energy better.

Is this the place for you?

Thomas Edison once said, “I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun”. In addition to taking care of your physical and mental health, think about whether your work is fun and your environment supports your development. In the survey of the Harvard Business Review, six features of the ‘dream job’ were identified:

  1. You can be yourself
  2. You know what’s really going on
  3. You have the opportunity to magnify your strengths
  4. Stands for more than shareholder value
  5. Your daily work makes sense
  6. There are no stupid rules

How many of these qualities fit your job?

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