Our cultural epidemic of stress and burnout seems to get worse each year. Recent Gallup polls showed that 79 percent of Americans feel stressed “sometimes or frequently,” and two-thirds of the full-time American workforce has suffered from some degree of burnout.
A survey from ComPsych, a company that provides employee assistance programs as well as resources and reports on behavioral health, found that around 59 percent of all employees describe themselves as “highly stressed.” But what causes these high levels of stress at work? According to their data, the top three causes of work stress were workload (39 percent), people issues (31 percent), and juggling work and personal life (19 percent).
There will always be deadlines, meetings, and the challenge of balancing responsibilities, but that doesn’t mean they have to cause massive amounts of stress. It’s entirely possible to keep work stress at bay by putting in place a few proactive strategies. At Thrive, we’re all about science-backed Microsteps — small behavioral changes you can implement that make a big difference — and they’re a great place to start addressing these major workplace stressors. Here are a few that can help reduce your stress levels at work:
The stressor: Workload
The Microstep: In the morning, write down your priorities for the day.
Deciding what’s important and what’s not is key to reducing stress and improving productivity — and yes, this will help with your looming deadlines. Of course, everything on your agenda seems important, but in reality, it’s entirely possible to prioritize your day when everything is a priority. Evaluate each of your deadlines in terms of urgency and importance and then take it from there.
Also, if you are about to miss a deadline, it may be a good idea to speak to your manager about it. Being compassionately direct with your supervisor about your workload and the reasons why you may miss this deadline may help you come to a more effective workflow arrangement.
The stressor: People issues
The Microstep: In meetings and one-on-ones, ask others to talk about their intuition.
Having to interact with co-workers you may not know well can be stressful. What’s the person’s agenda? How will they react to your suggestions? What are their concerns? An effective way to break through the stress of the unknown in meetings, and to expedite solutions to problems — is to ask people about their intuition.
When you encourage people to share what they might otherwise keep to themselves, you’ll surface fresh new ideas and solutions — and foster a culture that sees beyond the latest data set. Plus, it will help start the conversation and make the other person feel seen and heard.
The stressor: Juggling personal and work-life
The Microstep: During a walk or break, think about what’s going well in your life — and what you want to change.
There’s no such thing as achieving a perfect “work-life balance,” but we can — and should — feel empowered to leave our work stress at work, and bring our whole selves home at the end of the day in order to recharge and spend time doing something that makes us thrive.
It’s helpful to step back and take inventory of our lives — at home, work, and at play — and determine what, if anything, we want to change. Examining our own successes, challenges, and hopes isn’t self-indulgent. On the contrary, neuroscience tells us that we have a unique ability to build self-awareness through reflection. This is especially true when it comes to evaluating our career path and how it intersects with our personal life.