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Mastering Stress Management in the Workplace: Strategies for a Healthier Work Environment

Updated: Apr 20

Honestly, who doesn’t want to feel less stressed and burnt out at work? In today's volatile business world tied to headlines related to mass layoffs and the threat of AI, Stress management in the workplace has never been this  important. In the U.K. for example, the most common cause of stress is work related, with 79% of people saying they felt it. In the grand scheme of things, it’s very costly to the economy and to individual well-being: in the U.K. alone, 13.7 million working days are lost each year due to work related stress, anxiety and depression.  



Stress Management in the Workplace


This comprehensive guide for managers delves into the multifaceted approach required to effectively manage stress, emphasizing the importance of identifying stressors, ensuring psychological safety, and implementing practical strategies tailored to both organizations and individuals. 


These strategies include:

  • Improving psychological safety

  • Using breathwork

  • Meditation

  • Self-hypnosis Empowering leaders so they can set an example. 


By highlighting the pivotal role of leadership in cultivating a supportive culture, the necessity of leveraging internal and external resources, and the significance of personal responsibility in stress management, this blog offers actionable insights for businesses aiming to improve employee well-being and enhance organizational resilience. Join us as we explore essential strategies that can transform the workplace into a bastion of wellness and productivity, benefiting everyone from top executives to entry-level employees.


Understanding the Core Causes of Workplace Stress


Understanding Workplace Stress

The most fundamental stressor that exists in the workplace is relationships. The nature of interactions between management and colleagues significantly influences workplace atmosphere, swaying it between the extremes of motivational and toxic. Such an environment can either foster a sense of appreciation and inspiration or lead to overbearing leadership, backstabbing peers, and a pervasive lack of psychological safety. Beyond interpersonal issues, employees face stress from rigid deadlines, performance metrics, job uncertainty, and the daunting specter of layoffs and redundancy, exacerbated by the rapid advancements in technology and shifts in the job market. The absence of accessible and effective stress management tools further leaves individuals vulnerable to feeling overwhelmed and burnout, highlighting the importance of meaningful change in the workplace. 


“Quite literally, you may be losing the best people if you’re not creating the right environment. “

Beyond establishing relational security, embedding wellness into the company culture as a core value is crucial. This transcends occasional wellness activities, and will need regular and more structured wellness practices, procedures, and training within the organization. Such initiatives aim to foster individual well-being consistently, offering tools and techniques to improve happiness and reduce stress. When teams feel psychologically secure and are equipped with effective stress management resources, the benefits can be profound, encompassing enhanced performance, productivity, creativity, innovation, and overall mental health within the organization. In addition, with employer branding such an important issue of the day, companies should be encouraged to ensure the culture is suitable and enjoyable  to attract and retain talent. Quite literally, you may be losing the best people if you’re not creating the right environment. 


Implementing Effective Stress Management Strategies in the Workplace

Effective stress management in the workplace begins with a grounded understanding of the team's actual needs, rather than assumptions. 


Step 1 - Conducting an anonymous survey to gather candid feedback on team members' perceptions of psychological safety, their stress levels, and overall mental health. This data-driven approach allows for the crafting of targeted solutions that genuinely address the concerns identified.


Step 2 - A comprehensive follow-up strategy is crucial, encompassing team coaching, workshops on stress management techniques like breath work, meditation, yoga, positive psychology and seminars to unite the organization under the goal of enhancing health and wellness. The inclusion of both in-house and external experts—such as coaches and counselors—provides a balanced mix of support and fresh perspectives, fostering an environment where employees feel genuinely heard and supported.


Step 3 - Crucially, the process does not end with a single event or intervention. Continuous engagement and reassessment every few months ensure the strategies remain relevant and effective. This iterative approach, coupled with consistent leadership support, reinforces a culture of mental well-being and psychological safety, demonstrating a genuine commitment to the team's ongoing health and productivity. 


Step 4 - It is not just the company's job. Individual contributors are expected to make an effort to improve their well-being otherwise, what is the point? There should be access to resources and ways in which team members can pursue their own individual wellness plans.


Strategies for Management to Address Workplace Stress

Firstly, let’s start with my definition of psychological safety: in short, it’s the ability for people to feel comfortable being authentic, expressing their opinions and making mistakes in a team setting.


Just imagine, a group of friends, working towards a common goal. Yes, they are going to argue. Yes, there won’t be harmony all the time but at the end of the day, you’re still friends.  Ensuring a psychologically safe environment is paramount for management when tackling workplace stress. This foundational approach focuses on cultivating healthy relationships between staff and managers, creating a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere for all. Without this core level of safety, other efforts to enhance mental health and reduce stress are very unlikely to fully address the underlying issues of anxiety, stress, and conflict. An initial step involves a thorough evaluation of team relationships, prioritizing the improvement of psychological safety if found lacking. To give an example, imagine fixing a wound, only to cut it open again and again? There is a definite need to stop the wound from being created in the first place.  


Initiating a Stress Management Program: A Guide for Managers

For managers seeking to address workplace stress effectively, here is what I would advise.

 

Step 1 - Gain a deep understanding of the core stressors affecting your team. This involves moving beyond assumptions to actively gather insights directly from team members through assessments, interviews, and open discussions. Such engagement is crucial to bridging any disconnect between leadership and staff perspectives.


Step 2 - Emphasizes the importance of leadership by example. Managers and leaders are encouraged to embody the changes they wish to see within their team, making health, well-being, and stress reduction integral parts of the organizational culture. This approach is grounded in the understanding that team members are likely to mirror the behaviors and attitudes of their leaders; this is basic human psychology. Therefore, a culture of wellness and stress resilience starts at the top and should be visibly practiced by the entire leadership team. Leveraging external expertise can provide an objective assessment of the workplace environment, ensuring the implementation of the most effective strategies for stress management. 


Step 3 - Part of creating a great team is getting the right people. In all honesty, in my years of experience, some people are just not a good fit for a team and simply not ready for change. Part of a manager's job is to hire slowly and fire fast. As the team works towards better overall health and well-being, making sure the right people are on board is essential. 


Step 4 - Be patient. Changing a team culture takes a long time. In all the research we have, it’s about 1.5 years. The human nervous system also takes a long time to change. Don’t expect quick fixes and rapid transformation of old habits. Yes, things like somatic breathwork, hypnosis, and meditation help (A lot) but there are no magic pills. 


By incorporating these practical steps, managers can initiate a comprehensive stress management program that fosters a healthier, more productive workplace environment.



Personal Stress Management for Managers


Are you a stressed out manager?

Stress management extends to managers themselves as well. For managers navigating the complexities of workplace stress, personal well-being is not just a professional necessity but a foundational aspect of effective leadership. The journey to managing stress personally involves healthy daily routines, emphasizing consistent sleep schedules, balanced diets, and reduced intake of substances like alcohol, tobacco, and processed foods (easier said than done). Breathwork emerges as a highly effective tool for immediate stress relief, leveraging the power of controlled breathing to activate the body's relaxation responses. Incorporating meditation, mindfulness, and yoga into daily practices further enhances resilience to stress, gradually adjusting the nervous system towards greater peace and harmony.


Conclusion 


Workplace stress management is not an easy problem to solve. It really needs to involve all of the organization, a concerted effort by the leaders and a sincere effort by the team members. One of the reasons I chose to be a somatic therapist and breathwork coach is  because it is incredibly efficient and gives people in need of stress reduction, immediate relief. This is wonderful but you also want to be building an environment that is easy on people’s nervous system which means actively building better teams, better companies and of course, better leadership. At the end of the day, even in the age of A.I., it all starts with people.


Disclaimer: The above article may contain statements that reflect the opinion of the author. It is intended for general informational purposes and does not constitute psychological or medical professional advice. I don't diagnose medical conditions, nor do I interfere with any treatments given by your medical professional.

If you already are under the care of a doctor or under medical treatment, follow the advice and treatment recommended by your doctor. For any medical emergency, please call relevant authorities. 


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