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February 19, 2024 | Blog

Navigating Stress in Today’s Workplace

By Chad Charkowski

A lady giving presentation in a meeting

The modern workplace is fraught with challenges that can lead to stress, affecting employees’ mental and physical health. Understanding and implementing effective strategies to manage workplace stress is not just beneficial; it’s essential for maintaining productivity and achieving a balanced work and home life.

Understanding Workplace Stress

Stress in the workplace can stem from various sources such as tight deadlines, high expectations, long hours, delays, and challenging relationships with colleagues or management. 

Recognizing these triggers is the first step toward managing stress. Awareness enables individuals to address the specific aspects of their work environment that contribute to stress.

Have you ever lost a few pounds and not noticed until someone who hasn’t seen you in a few months or years comes along and remarks how good you look? Sometimes as leaders we are too close to the person or problem to offer a fresh perspective. This is especially true for anxiety, stress and burnout because we see our colleagues weekly if not daily. 

The Importance of Perspective In Reducing Workplace Stress

How we perceive challenges significantly impacts our stress levels. Adopting a positive perspective can transform potential stressors into opportunities for growth and learning. This mindset shift encourages resilience and empowers employees to handle work pressures more effectively.

Time and Priority Management Alleviate Workplace Stress

Effective time management is crucial for reducing workplace stress. By prioritizing tasks based on urgency and importance, employees can focus on what truly needs to be done without feeling overwhelmed. 

Tools and techniques like the Eisenhower Box or the Pomodoro Technique can help in organizing tasks and taking control of time. Having a good program in place to help facilitate time management is critical. Make sure your program addresses time management at work and outside of work. The majority of stressors stem from outside of the workplace but can cause issues inside of the company.  

Take Breaks While Chopping Wood 

There is an old story about the two lumberjacks who start chopping wood at the same time and leave at the same time every day. One lumberjack leaves for an hour every every day and yet still chops more wood. Finally, he is asked where he goes for that hour every day. He replies, “I go home to sharpen my axe”. This could also be inferring the importance of prioritizing your own personal and/or professional development.

The power of taking short, regular breaks cannot be underestimated in managing stress. Intentional breaks help reset the mind, reducing mental fatigue, and boosting creativity. Whether it’s a five-minute walk, a quick meditation session, or simply stepping away from the desk, breaks are vital for sustained productivity and to help all of your employees “sharpen their axe”. 

Setting Realistic Work Boundaries Reduces Workplace Stress

Establishing clear boundaries between professional and personal life is critical for stress management. This includes setting specific work hours, being mindful of work-life balance, and communicating these boundaries to colleagues and supervisors. Effective boundary setting helps in preventing burnout and ensuring personal time is respected.

Relaxation Techniques

Incorporating relaxation techniques into the daily routine can significantly reduce stress. Methods such as deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, or even engaging in hobbies can help calm the mind and reduce tension.

It is one thing to simply tell people to relax, which rarely happens. It is an entirely different conversation to have resources available to help them relax. Having a robust arsenal of techniques is a must with a diverse range of people in your workforce. Keep in mind some people find organizing their kitchen relaxing while others find it stressful. 

Leveraging Workplace Wellness Programs

Many organizations now recognize the importance of employee well-being and offer wellness programs that include stress management resources, fitness classes, mental health support, and more. Taking advantage of these programs can provide employees with additional tools to handle stress.

The Benefits of Professional Counseling

Sometimes, professional help is needed to manage stress effectively. Counseling and therapy as part of your Employee Assistance Program can offer a safe space to explore stressors and develop coping strategies. It’s a valuable resource for employees experiencing high levels of stress or those who feel unable to manage it on their own.

Physical Activity as a Stress Reliever

Engaging in regular physical activity is one of the most effective ways to combat stress. Exercise not only improves physical health but also has a positive impact on mental well-being by reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression and improving sleep and cognitive function.

Your EAP Should Help Relieve Stress Not Add To It 

Managing workplace stress requires a proactive and holistic approach. By understanding stress triggers, adopting a positive perspective, mastering time management, taking regular breaks, setting realistic boundaries, practicing relaxation techniques, leveraging wellness programs like the Lifestyle EAP, seeking professional counseling, and engaging in physical activity, employees can navigate the pressures of the modern workplace more effectively.

Your EAP should raise the bar, not just check the box. If any of these tactics seem foreign or absent from your EAP then we should talk. Schedule some time to see how Covenant Workplace Solutions can help your EAP and your employees


Some Q&A To Hang In The Breakroom With Your EAP Information: 

What are the first signs of workplace stress?

Early signs include feeling overwhelmed, irritability, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and changes in sleep patterns.

Can workplace stress affect physical health?

Yes, prolonged stress can lead to physical health issues such as headaches, stomach problems, and increased risk of chronic diseases.

How often should I take breaks to manage stress?

It’s recommended to take short, but meaningful breaks every hour to refresh your mind and body.

What kind of physical activity is best for reducing stress?

Any form of exercise that you enjoy and can consistently participate in is beneficial, whether it’s walking, running, cycling, yoga, or team sports.

Is it okay to seek professional help for workplace stress?

Absolutely. Seeking help is a sign of strength and a proactive step towards managing your well-being.

How can I inspire my employer to implement or enhance our wellness programs?

Present the wealth of evidence regarding the benefits of wellness programs on employee productivity, satisfaction, and overall health, along with potential cost savings for the company.