Office stress pervades every industry at every level, causing health problems, worker inefficiency, and mental health issues that cost U.S. businesses in more ways than one. A 2016 report by Harvard University found that 36% of workers suffer from job-related stress, costing businesses $30 billion per year in lost workdays. Professionals also reported that job stress had a negative impact on their sleep cycle (27%), eating habits (28%), and weight (22%), indicating a national stress epidemic that degrades the workplace environment and the personal lives of employees.
Fortunately, there are several ways to combat stress and foster personal wellness at work. To help reduce your stress in the new year, consider these five tips for creating a healthier office environment.
- Identify the Source: Observe whether there are certain situations that generate stress, or the times of day when you feel under pressure. If morning meetings make you sweat, try practicing meditation or take a few moments to decompress once you’re back at your desk. If you get overwhelmed every time you take inventory, ask a coworker to lend a hand. Recognizing stressors is the first step towards eliminating them for a healthier work environment.
- Constructive Conversations: It’s tempting to complain with coworkers about how little you slept or how much you have to do. Many employees find short-term relief in ranting about their situation. While misery may love its company, commiserating won’t help solve the problem. In fact, studies show that co-rumination degrades your physical health and drains your mental energy. Instead of listing complaints, work together to find solutions that improve working conditions for everyone.
- Promote Positivity: If you notice your coworkers seem more anxious than usual or that the office atmosphere is charged with stress, make it a point to encourage and uplift those around you. Don’t underestimate the power of a kind word or compliment to foster positivity. Ask your coworker if they need help preparing their data analysis, or consider organizing a potluck lunch for everyone to enjoy a convivial meal together. Simple actions like these can make a big difference in overall workplace satisfaction.
- Address the Issue: If there’s a specific situation in the office that’s contributing to your stress, such as tension between coworkers or approaching deadlines, consider talking with your boss or your co-workers to resolve the issue. Explain the problem in neutral terms, without accusation or complaints, and offer solutions that would resolve the issue without compromising project timelines or the office dynamic. Being proactive about workplace stress is key to a healthy work environment.
- Keep it in Perspective: Of course you want to give every project 100 percent, but consider the physical and emotional impact of pulling several all-nighters per week or neglecting your health. Remember to ask for help when necessary, discuss your concerns with co-workers, and keep a healthy perspective about the long-term effects of your actions.
If your job generates stress that impacts your workplace satisfaction and personal health, you’re not alone. Consider these 5 tips for a healthier office environment and take the first steps towards a stress-free workplace.
Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is an award-winning entrepreneur, cross-cultural trainer, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, and Fortune. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, (3rd printing), was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.