Take Action To Minimize Stress
Stress can impact anyone, and workplaces are not immune.It can be easy to minimize the impact of stress on individuals, but given how ubiquitous and harmful it can be, it’s worth taking seriously. With the real estate season heating up, let’s take a deep dive into stress, address how it shows up in the workplace and look at what organizations like Alliant National are doing to support workers.
Stress: the lesser-known facts
When you break stress down, what exactly is it? On a basic level, stress is the body’s response to a demand, the impacts of stress can be acutely felt in the workplace. Any change – good and the bad – can technically be stressful.
There are so many important things to know about stress, but some of the lesser-known facts include:
- Stress affects everyone,
- Not all stress is bad,
- Long term stress can harm your health,
- There are ways to manage stress, and
- If you feel overwhelmed by stress, it’s important to reach out to a health professional.
Where does stress often show up?
While stress can be anywhere, it frequently pops up in workplaces. Stacy Stolen, HR Director for Alliant National, explains that this can have significant consequences for employees. “Workplace stress has adverse effects on workers’ mental health, with an increased risk of anxiety, burnout, depression and substance use disorders,” said Stolen. “Workers who are stressed at work are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as cigarette smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, and poor dietary patterns.”
The negative consequences of stress aren’t just limited to employees. It can affect businesses as well. “It decreases employee productivity,” says Stolen. “Interactions with co-workers may become strained, causing increased conflict, more complaints and grievances, health concerns and higher absenteeism.”
Reducing stress begins with awareness
Given how serious stress can be, it’s obvious that there needs to be increased cultural awareness around the topic. And according to Stolen, some things are moving in the right direction: “It has become more acceptable to ‘talk’ about stress,” says Stolen, “but companies are still struggling to manage workplace stress – especially where recent layoffs may have created more stress and burnout. Companies are starting to realize this, but perks like onsite gyms and nap rooms are not the answer to our problem. Companies must go deeper.”
How can workplaces better address stress?
So, what does it look like when workplaces get serious about addressing stress? For Stolen, it means digging into the psychological reasons that are driving a stressed-out employee. “If your employees perceive your workplace as a threat, then you cannot build the trust your team needs to collaborate and innovate effectively,” she said. “Employers need to shift from individual-level to organization-level approaches for reducing stress at work, which can foster employee well-being while simultaneously improving business performance.”
Some may be quick to say this approach is unrealistic; but rest assured, it’s not. As Stolen explains, “My years of experience have taught me that burnout prevention requires reducing workplace stress while also upping employee engagement.”
What is Alliant National’s approach to stress reduction?
Under Stolen’s leadership, Alliant National has put together a plan of action to help reduce workplace stress. While the company has not yet achieved every goal, it is making good progress toward lowering the amount of stress percolating throughout the organization.
One initiative that has been making headway is the Alliant National Employee Engagement team, which is designed to help “employees feel engaged, fairly compensated, rewarded, and personally committed to and inspired by their work.”
Another goal is to actively create a culture where employees not only feel that it is permissible – but encouraged – to take time off to rest and recharge. Part of that involves constantly reminding employees that they have the freedom to take breaks, take their accrued PTO, pursue a flexible work schedule or ask for help in managing their stress.
Stolen is also working on a mental health “challenge,” where she reaches out to managers to ascertain if their direct reports have run up large PTO balances. The intention behind this initiative is to get a better sense of whether team members are actually using the time that they have earned, and if not, to understand why. This upcoming mental health and stress reduction challenge follows on the heels of one conducted in December of 2022.
There is no magic bullet against stress; but progress is possible!
When asked about how she herself manages stress, Stolen was candid: “I have no secret sauce, but what I have learned is that I need to unplug and be able to tell my boss when I am stressed and need help – not so I feel weak, but so I can be good to myself.”
In many ways, this is an effective summary of how we can all get better about managing stress in our lives and particularly in the workplace. There is no magic bullet, but with understanding, trust and open communication, real inroads can be made toward achieving more sustainable and healthy levels of stress.