Over the last week I’ve been checking out all those kitschy tips on keeping stress at bay over the holidays. I even wrote one, Top 10 Keys to Unlock Holiday Workplace Stress. I’m a firm believer in the attention grab that gets people talking and subsequently taking a more introspective glance at workplace stress. Not the good stress that gets you motivated, but the stress that burns you out.
As I wrote in a recent post, Deconstructing Stress in a New Economy, we have a new lens through which to view our work-life merge. At the laser fast pace of work in a 24/7 hi-tech competitive global marketplace, the new world of work requires addressing what I refer to as a new APR.
Employers must give more credence to their employee’s skill capabilities around Attention, Productivity and Resilience. That translates into employers and employees paying more attention to workplace stressors that can impede APR.
Two overarching solution tracks are employee stress management educational programs and sweeping organizational changes. They are not mutually exclusive, but each track has its own benefits and challenges.
Stress Management Programs:
- Can help employees assess stress and create individual solutions to stress.
- Outline the nature of stress in the workplace.
- Review the effects of stress on mental well-being and health.
- Offer skills like breathing methods, meditation, relaxation, time management, and communication techniques to manage stress.
- Can help employees cultivate skills to handle crisis and stress when an acute situation arises.
- Can be effective if there is a consistent approach to training, evaluation and individual tracking of progress.
- Can help bring about long lasting workplace transformation.
- Improve working conditions toward reducing across-the-board workplace stressors.
- Requires consistent effort and a cultural shift.
- Involves the identification of stressful aspects of work (e.g., excessive workload, conflicting expectations, interpersonal relationships).
- Involves the design of strategies to reduce or eliminate stressors.
- Can be challenging because it might involve changes in job definition, production schedules or overall organizational structure.
No Band-Aid Zone
Offering stress management workshops within company walls is a good start, but it can be viewed as a band-aid approach if there is not buy-in from management which has expressed the intention to truly address the workplace stressors within the workplace culture.
In his post at the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program website, Workplace Stress Needs to Be Reined In, Matthew Grawitch, Ph.D. wrote that stress continues to fall, “to the back burner over and over again in most organizations.”
Grawitch is the director of the Leadership and Organizational Development Program at Saint Louis University. In his article, he remarks that offering stress or time management tools to employees while, “continuing to foist more and more job responsibilities on them is a bit ludicrous.” He goes on to write that organizations need to start with changing the culture:
“They need to give more thought to proactive approaches to reduce stress (such as redesigning work or implementing more effective tools), rather than focusing strictly on reactive approaches to stress.”
Most importantly Grawitch says that management needs to think about their own behaviors and the messages they are giving to employees.
“You send mixed messages when you tell people to make work-life balance a priority and then send them half a dozen emails after hours and expect a response when they are off the clock.”
What do you think? Is it a chicken or an egg argument? Are stress management programs a good start to get the conversation going toward an organizational culture shift, or is it moot without sweeping workplace changes?
Judy Martin is an Emmy-award winning broadcast journalist who tracks business and workplace trends with an expertise in work life initiatives. As a certified yoga instructor (RYT-200), she is also a stress management consultant, meditation coach and workplace communications expert. She has contributed as a national radio reporter to Marketplace Report, NPR, The World Vision Report, CNBC Business Radio, and BBC Radio 3. Visit Judy’s personal blog at WorkLifeNation.com, friend her up on Twitter; @JudyMartin8 and check out her guided meditation CD: Practical Chaos: Reflections on Resilience.