Managing Stress: Tips to Chill Out

Workplace stress is a real problem.  At one time or another, nearly everyone complains about being “stressed out”, so it may be hard to accept that stress can be a real workplace issue with serious consequences for employees, health and safety.  The effects of workplace stress, and how to deal with it, have increasingly become the subject of studies by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and other organizations.  The experts agree that stress can bring on such health problems as:

  • Headaches
  • Stomach ailments
  • Sleep disorders and resulting fatigue
  • Inability to concentrate and focus
  • Raised blood pressure that may lead to cardiovascular problems
  • Mental health problems

Stress-related health problems can directly impact workplace safety.  It stands to reason that employees who are tired, sick, or distracted due to stress are not going to be as attentive to safety as they should be.  This leads to more mistakes, more accidents, and more injuries.  But the reverse can also be true: Reducing stress in the workplace can also reduce mistakes and accidents.  In fact, one study showed that by instituting a stress-reduction program, a company in the medical industry was able to cut its rate of documented errors by more than half.

Stressed out?  Talk about it.  Many factors, both inside and outside the workplace, can contribute to stress.

Work-related stress factors can include long hours, concern about job security, jobs that are boring or otherwise unfulfilling, and lack of opportunity to interact with others on a meaningful level.  While you may not be able to change conditions that produce stress, perhaps one thing you can do is provide opportunities for employees to talk about the stress they feel, the reasons for it, and how it can affect their overall health and safety.  Constructively communicating about stress (not just complaining) appears to be an effective way for employees to “blow off steam” appropriately and exchange ideas about how to cope with it.

Other helpful stress-reducers are:

  • Taking a few moments to relax, even if you don’t think you have the time.
  • Being better organized—starting each day with a written list of goals and priorities, and
  • Finding reasons to laugh (laughter really seems to help).

Why it Matters…

  • Surveys show that 25 percent to 40 percent of workers say they face very high levels of stress at their jobs.
  • Stress reportedly costs American companies more than $300 billion per year in terms of poor performance, absenteeism, and healthcare costs.
  • Workers who must take time off for stress-related problems average 20 days of lost time.
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