Stress Got You Down on the Job?

Very important memo to self, staff! — What can WE do to make this a better place to work?

That question is one today’s public- and private-sector employers who genuinely care about their workers are prone to ponder often.

Among the attributes people tend to list for ideal jobs and working environment are a fair wage, good benefits, workplace flexibility – parental leave and respect for the importance of parental duties. Others cited are fairness, good advancement opportunity and trust and respect between management and employees.

One that has become a top priority in recent years is a stress-free work environment.

A Monster Take on Job Stress

Survey after survey recently has found job stress is a major concern. Results from a spring 2014 poll by mega job-search website Monster reveals the depth of workers concerns.

Monster found that 42% of U.S. respondents had left jobs because of excessive stress in the workplace. Moreover, the authors stated, “Workplace stress has also caused an additional 35% to consider changing jobs.” Equally significant, only 3% of the more than 6,700 people surveyed said they did not experience stress at their jobs.

Nearly two-thirds of those polled in the Monster survey said they thought job stress had caused them to become ill at some point and 45% said they lost time on the job because of it.

HeartMath Study Shows Intervention Can Help

The HeartMath Institute study, Impact of a Workplace Stress Reduction Program on Blood Pressure and Emotional Health in Hypertensive Employees, showed even a short intervention program could reduce job stress. The study examined the effects of HeartMath’s Inner Quality Management® program on blood pressure and emotional health in hypertensive employees at a global information technology company.

The results included clinically significant lower blood pressure and improved emotional health. The researchers concluded such interventions could produce a healthier, more productive workforce while reducing company losses from cognitive decline, illness and premature death.

(Click here for a PDF version of the study.)

Who’s Stressing You?

The article Your Stress is My Stress, published in April this year, discussed the ripple effect one individual’s stress could have.

“Stress is contagious,” according to the article, which synthesizes the findings of two prestigious German research bodies, the Max Planck Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig and Clemens Kirschbaum at the Technische Universität Dresden.

“Observing another person in a stressful situation can be enough to make our own bodies release the stress hormone cortisol. … Empathic stress arose primarily when the observer and stressed individual were partners in a couple relationship and the stressful situation could be directly observed through a one-way mirror.”

Beyond the person-person effect of stress, “Even the observation of stressed strangers via video transmission was enough to put some people on red alert. In our stress-ridden society, empathic stress is a phenomenon that should not be ignored by the health-care system,” the article’s authors observed. Learn more about how each individual impacts the social environment, click here.

What’s Causing Stress in the Workplace?

Here are some key contributors to workplace stress identified by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration:

  • Design of tasks — Heavy workload, infrequent rest breaks, long work hours and shiftwork; hectic and routine tasks with little meaning.
  • Management style — No employee participation in decision-making, poor communication in the organization, lack of family-friendly policies.
  • Career concerns — Job insecurity and lack of opportunity for growth, advancement, or promotion; rapid changes for which workers are unprepared.
  • Environmental conditions — Unpleasant or dangerous physical conditions such as crowding, noise, air pollution or ergonomic problems.

Stress That Begins at Work Does Not Stay at Work

“So what if there’s a lot of stress where I work,” many people tell themselves. “I just can leave it all behind at the end of the day.” Well, not quite.

That Monster survey published in April also found that 84% of the people questioned said their job stress had affected their personal lives. The fact is, don’t expect the frustration, anger and other negative emotions arising from interactions with co-workers, projects gone awry or undesirable working conditions to magically vanish at the end of the workday.

Research shows the effects of excessive stress can continue plaguing you long after it starts — several hours, days or longer. That is, of course, unless you learn to manage it by self-regulating your emotions, either in the moment, later or both. Hundreds of studies, many at the HeartMath Institute, conducted with thousands of real people also show stress is highly controllable, during and after you experience it – and even before.

It’s a matter of practicing some simple, but highly effective tools such as those developed by HeartMath. These show you how to breathe balance and calm into your body’s systems, and to observe and adjust how you perceive and respond to stressful situations and encounters.

How Is Job Stress Affecting You?

Here are 10 of the most common symptoms of excessive stress:

  • Headaches
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Lack of energy, fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Inability to focus or concentrate
  • Memory lapses
  • Irritability, bursts of anger
  • Overeating
  • Depression

A HeartMath Case in Point

A half-dozen people who work at the HeartMath companies were asked, “Why is HeartMath a good place to work?” Following are some of their replies.

“The practice of the (HeartMath) techniques and the true care we give to one another makes for a work environment that keeps stress to a minimum. … When my daughter became very ill, the care I received was incredible. There was true care and flexibility … allowing me to be the caregiver I had to be.”
– Judie Van Leeuwen, IHM Development Division administrative assistant

“The people who work here are committed to living from the heart. … HeartMath also gives a wonderful context to help and care for the world with research and tools that can help anyone make that connection. … That sense of service is very fulfilling.
– Robert Browning, program director HeartMath LLC healthcare

“The people/co-workers are terrific. … The work of HeartMath is innovative and dramatically helping people in a wide variety of circumstances. You feel like what you are doing is helping improve the world.”
– Jeff Goelitz, HMI education specialist

“It seems that the employees come first along with our customers, rather than ‘the company.’ “
– Christiana Bishop, training manager, Institute of HeartMath

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I experiencing too much stress at work? Is it affecting my home/social life?
  • Do I have any of the common symptoms of excessive stress. (Refer to list of symptoms above.)
  • What am I doing to control my stress?

Original post HeartMath

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich: