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10 tips for reducing stress in the workplace.

By Stephanie M. Kurt, MBA

Decreasing stress in the workplace is not an impossible task. Although, just thinking about decreasing stress in the workplace may actually cause some stress!

However, that doesn’t mean that your organization shouldn’t be vested in some type of stress management. Helping your employees learn about the types of stress they may endure in the workplace, and how to cope with these stressors, will benefit both the employee and the organization. Even if your organization does not have a formal stress management program in place, any type of healthy outlet is beneficial for stress reduction. Is it possible to have a completely stress-free work environment? The answer is no. However, recognizing the cause of stress is at the very heart of reducing it. Most importantly, we need to practice what we want others to benefit from.

Learning our own limits is the first step that we, as leaders, need to acknowledge before we can be a positive influence on those around us. Many of us do not take the time to reflect on our situation. We are busy putting out fires that arise on a daily basis, and somewhere in the midst of all those fires, we lose ourselves. We can learn to pause and take 10 minutes every day to sit and reflect or meditate. This short break will help us to gauge the priorities which need to be handled first. Our employees will take cues from us and will reflect the same type of behavior when reacting to their own stress. It is imperative that we take care of ourselves and have healthy outlets for relieving stress. Oftentimes, when we get our stress levels under control, we find that what was first thought of as a crisis is actually only a small hiccup in our day!

Communication with our employees is key, as is listening and observation. As a leader, it is important to recognize changes in an employee’s personality, attendance, or job performance as these types of changes may indicate an employee is under increased stress. Also, employees who find themselves mismatched with their job skills may suffer added daily stress. A discussion about these noted changes may help the employee to find relief from their stressors, and it will communicate that you value them as well. This type of vested interest not only shows that the leader is aware of their stress but also how it can affect them emotionally and physically.

The art of communication can effectively help alleviate stress in the workplace as it shows employees they are a valued part of the organization. It is also beneficial for leadership to evaluate employee workloads and possibly revise, or reassign, certain tasks to others. Empowering your employees to manage their stress will undoubtedly lead to a happier workplace. As stress declines, leaders will find that their employees become better teammates and thus more invested in their role in the organization.

There are rows and rows of books in local bookstores that have catchy titles on how to reduce stress. There are also a plethora of articles online about stress management. Some of the best tips I have found are from an article by Stephen Bruce.1 The following 10 tips can easily be practiced by leaders and employees alike.

  1. Know yourself. Be aware of your stress level and the things that stress you out. Learn your own signals and pay attention to them.
  2. Recognize how you deal with stress. Do you turn to unhealthy habits like smoking, drinking, or eating poorly? Do you lose patience with coworkers or family members when you feel overwhelmed at work?
  3. Set rules for devices. Consider rules like turning off the cell phone when you get home or establishing certain times for returning calls. Be sure to communicate these rules with others so you can manage expectations.
  4. Keep a to-do list. It’s stressful to constantly think of things that you should be doing. Clear your head by putting those thoughts in writing. Divide out “work” and “non-work” tasks and indicate those with the highest priority.
  5. Take responsibility. Acknowledging that you are responsible for your own stress levels can be an important step. No matter what the sources of stress (bad boss, too much work, too little time, etc.), the issue comes down to how you react to them.
  6. Take a break. It may not seem like much, but a short (1- or 2-minute) break several times a day can help you stay energized and productive. Stand up, stretch, breathe deeply, and clear your head. Avoid the temptation to work through lunch.
  7. Take care. You’ve heard it before, but it really does help—eat right, get enough sleep, drink plenty of water, and exercise regularly. No matter how hectic life gets at work or at home, you’ve got to make time for yourself. If a vacation isn’t in the offing, carve out time for a hobby or a good book.
  8. Change your head. If negative thinking is causing stress, work to break the pattern. If trying to do everything to perfection is the problem, try to modify your expectations, realizing that unrealistic goals are going to set you up for failure—and undue stress.
  9. Learn to manage conflict. It’s easier said than done, but resolving conflict in a healthy, constructive way can help relieve work stress. Focus on the present, avoid the temptation to dive into old resentments, and listen to what the other person is really saying.
  10. Ask for help. Accepting help from supportive friends and family members can help you better manage your stress. Take advantage of employer-based services like an EAP, counseling, work/life balance programs, or referrals to mental health professionals.

1 Bruce, S. HR Daily Advisor. (2018). Workplace Stress Is Dangerous: 10 Ways to Help Your Employees Deal with It. [online] Available at: https://hrdailyadvisor.blr.com/2015/05/11/workplace-stress-is-dangerous-10-ways-to-help-your-employees-deal-with-it. Accessed February 28, 2018.

Stephanie Kurt

Stephanie M. Kurt, MBA, is the director of operations for Alliant Physical Therapy in Racine, Wisconsin. She can be reached at skurt@alliantpt.com.

Copyright © 2018, Private Practice Section of the American Physical Therapy Association. All Rights Reserved.

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