Dealing with workplace stress

A majority of Americans feel stressed out at work. If you’re one of them, here’s how to cope.

Have you had a busy day? Long week, perhaps? Feeling stressed?

You’re not alone. According to a survey from staffing firm Accountemps, more than half (52%) of workers said they are stressed at work on a day-to-day basis, and 60% report work-related pressure has increased in the last five years.

More stress stats

  • Younger workers are feeling the pressure: Sixty-four percent of professionals between the ages of 18 and 34 admitted to being stressed on the job, compared to 59% of workers ages 35 to 54 and only 35% of respondents ages 55 and older.
  • Gender differences exist: Slightly more men (57%) than women (47%) said they are stressed at work on a daily basis.

Their concerns are not lost on executives: 54% of CFOs acknowledged their teams are stressed, and 55% said worker anxiety is on the rise. Employees polled cited heavy workloads and looming deadlines (33%), attaining work-life balance (22%), and unrealistic expectations of managers (22%) as top worries.

This aligns with findings by the American Institute of Stress (AIS) that job stress is far and away the major source of stress for American adults and it has escalated progressively over the past few decades.

Jim Jeffers, metro market manager of Accountemps in Madison, says there are many reasons workers experience stress, both personally and professionally.

“At work, things like looming deadlines, heavy workloads, time management issues, conflicts with coworkers, and office politics can impact stress levels,” Jeffers explains. “Many employers experience added stress when they lose key employees and struggle to keep business on track while looking to recruit a replacement. This also puts added pressure on current employees who are expected to pick up the slack in the interim.”

According to Jeffers, workers may find that their commutes can serve as a source of stress, whether through the long journeys on packed public transit, or being stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic for hours.

Additionally, personal factors such as caring for family or dealing with things like home renovations can also be a source of stress, and for those who don’t have an outlet to help them find balance outside of work, this pressure can compound in the workplace.

How to survive the workday when you’re stressed

Jeffers suggests making a to-do list at the beginning of each day to safeguard your time. “Staying organized is essential to finishing tasks on time and keeping focused. Rather than juggling multiple things at once, block off periods of time throughout the day to focus on key projects.”

Jeffers also recommends taking breaks throughout the day. “Go for a quick walk, do some light stretching, or go and grab a snack — anything to help clear your mind for a few minutes so that you can return feeling more refreshed and focused.”

Employees should also not be afraid to speak up. If you feel like you’re unable to keep up with your workload and your to-do list is never-ending, talk to your boss; don’t be afraid to ask for help, says Jeffers.

Having things to look forward to outside of work can also help instill a sense of balance. “Take up a hobby, like painting or writing, get outside and find an activity you love to do, start a new book series, or find new music that helps you unwind,” Jeffers offers.

Tips for talking to the boss about your workload

Strong managers should be well aware of signs of employee burnout, but if you feel like your boss isn’t seeing it you shouldn’t suffer in silence, note Jeffers.

Schedule some time to sit down with your boss to go over your current projects; have a candid discussion about what you’re feeling and how your current stress levels may be impeding your productivity.

“Ask about the possibility of shifting deadlines, project timelines, or bringing in extra help on a temporary basis to take help take on some of the work,” Jeffers adds.



Identifying and discussing stress with employees

Managers might sometimes be the cause of employee stress, but that doesn’t mean those in a supervisory role can’t also look out for their staffers’ wellbeing.

Jeffers suggests managers keep an eye on employee attitudes. “If your staff are constantly in a bad mood check in and get to the root of it — are they over worked? Dissatisfied with their job? Keep open lines of communication with your staff and make sure they know you’re there to help find solutions.”

He also says managers should keep track of missed deadlines, which could be a sign that workloads are too heavy and staff are unable to keep up. If that’s the case, consider bringing on temporary staff to help take on some of the workload.

Finally, look for signs of employee burnout like decreased productivity, lower quality of work, and noticeably more mistakes.

Implementing stress-relieving solutions

Thankfully, employers can do a lot to alleviate or even eliminate stressors at work.

Jeffers says managers should help employees set goals and priorities. “Work with them to manage deadlines and expectations, and be clear about where they should focus their efforts.”

Jeffers also notes managers should make sure work environments are suited to staff members’ specific needs. Everyone has different work preferences, so consider offering flexible and remote options.

“Provide your team with resources to help cope with stress levels,” Jeffers says. “Encourage them to take advantage of stress management apps, webinars, or meditative videos. Offer access to wellness benefits like yoga classes or time management seminars, and make use of these yourself to set a good example for your staff.

“And give your workers the chance for a little fun at the office,” Jeffers adds. “Offer time to socialize at work and build a sense of camaraderie among team members — create a work culture that encourages them to relax and unwind when appropriate.”

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