Stress Awareness Month
April is National Stress Awareness Month, and it comes at one of the most stressful moments in recent history for American workers. Even though we are far removed from the beginning of the pandemic, stress levels for everyone are the highest since it began. A staggering 8 in 10 US adults reported symptoms of long-term stress in the first quarter of 2021. Even as conditions improve, the pressure is on to feel more relaxed.
How Stress Has Changed at Work
Work-related stress has recently taken on a host of new and interesting dynamics that have held up that process, adding remote schedules, lockdowns, home schooling, and other variables. Even though summer is approaching, vaccines are becoming plentiful, and there are reasons to be optimistic, work stress is not something to be set on the wayside. It can accelerate all sorts of problematic conditions like “Zoom burnout,” which are becoming quite real obstacles to healthy living.
5 Ways to Reduce Workplace Stress
Dealing with workplace stress with employees in a supportive way and helping them cope day-to-day is its own unique challenge apart from everything else. There are limits to how much an employer can really help, and it’s tricky to navigate without causing additional stress. Fortunately, there are many proven science-based approaches out there that can make it much easier. Here are five of our favorites:
- Encourage Physical Activity – Stress results mainly from a buildup of cortisol, aka the “stress hormone” in the body, which is normally expended through physical activity. It’s much harder to avoid being sedentary lately, so boosting wellness programs and encouraging even moderate exercise is probably the most direct and effective way to alleviate anxiety-related behavior.
- Manage Email Overload – With so many aspects of our daily work life going remote and so many ways to stay in touch at all hours of the day, there is a real risk of over-communicating with employees and causing needless amounts of “email anxiety” to the mix. Always balance outreach with a healthy amount of personal space to help keep the lines between work and life separate.
- Schedule Flexibility – What does the term “9-to-5” mean anymore? With so many daily responsibilities blurring together with how we work for a living, especially for at-home caretakers and working parents, flexibility with scheduling and workload is becoming a major desirability factor on the job market. Among millennials, the largest workforce segment, 92% identify flexibility as a top priority while job hunting.
- Check in Personally – Regular one-on-ones, whether by video chat, phone call, or some thoughtful texts, provide a modicum of the human connection some may have been missing out on in recent months, and are becoming a common feature of the new “hybrid” workplace. They fulfill a huge slot in our common Hierarchy of Needs, namely safety and belonging.
- Share CDC Workplace Stress Guides – The CDC has provided a helpful page for anyone experiencing elevated stress or anxiety related to work, with special attention paid to additional pandemic factors. It includes a breakdown of common stressors along with expert advice on building resilience. Sharing it for Stress Awareness Month is a great way to show compassion and leave the door open for support.
Less Stress, More Success
Whether it’s work life, social life, or personal life, it’s all one life and we’re all in it together. Helping each other manage the stress we all experience, pandemic-related or otherwise, goes a long way toward building a more stable and successful environment that everyone can thrive in.