Myth: Stress Can Wait
Your report is due at the end of the week, your presentation is tomorrow, you have an employee evaluation this afternoon and, by the way, your meeting starts in 5 minutes. What’s on your “to do” list for today? Is “stress management” one of the items? Experience tells me it’s not. We’re too busy with immediate priorities. Stress can wait until things slow down, right? Wrong!
When have you ever worked in an environment where things have “slowed down?” One project ends and another begins, one crisis gets solved and another arises. Those of us who tend to procrastinate can relate. More work is always there, and the more we put it off, the more we suffer in the end.
The same is true with stress. If not dealt with on a daily basis, stress within yourself and your team will build to a crisis point.
I saw this within a company recently that bought out a competitor. It quadrupled its employee base and gained multiple facilities. The decision-makers meticulously planned for the transition in operations, customer relations, payroll and billing. But while computer systems were being built and new phone lines connected, management teams were being broken and long-standing employee relationships were severed. Their employee stress management plan was to dig in and do whatever it would take to get through the transition. Guess what. They’ve never stopped transitioning.
Company growth is good, but we have to build in systems to manage the stress
that comes along with it. In regards to personal health, lack of stress management leads to cardiovascular disease, lowered immunity and all kinds of other life-threatening conditions. Professionally, it can threaten the life of a company. Studies estimate that US businesses lose more than $300 billion in stress-related lost time, poor performance and employee turnover.
While we will never create a stress-free workplace, we can begin to take steps to foster a culture of positive stress management in our lives and in our companies. How?
1) Manage by Example
Your career/team/company can only be as healthy as you are. If you’re running on energy drinks, chocolate bars and constant adrenaline, your team will be reluctant to take lunch, go for a walk or remain calm when facing deadlines. You may not have a choice about the stresses you’re given, but you have the power to choose how you’ll manage them.
2) Cultivate a Resilient Workplace
Be flexible, or as I like to say, be flex-able. We’re all able to stretch, but how well we or our employees bounce back depends upon our response to challenges. Whether managing our own career or others, we have to expect and plan for course corrections, look for opportunities in problems, let go of a victim mentality and be willing to learn from our mistakes. It’s not necessarily the amount of stress we experience, but how quickly we can recover from the effects that impacts our health and wellbeing.
3) Don’t Sugar Coat It
If you or your employees are in a terribly stressful situation, acknowledge it. That alone lowers stress levels. Keep lines of communication open and encourage discussion. Collaboration, communication and camaraderie keep employees engaged in working toward solutions rather than focused on creating more problems.
Whether or not you think “stress can wait;” it won’t. And when it comes to putting stress management at the top of your daily “to do” list, you shouldn’t either.