Methods for stress reduction are as old as stress itself. Most suggested cures are short-term oriented and focus on the person experiencing the stress: take a deep breath, go for a walk, exercise, say no to requests or extra work, sleep better, eat well and drink less alcohol. While most of these techniques are powerful when dealing with stress in the moment, they don't offer sustainable solutions that benefit long term stress reduction. The reason why going on regular walks and drinking less alcohol doesn't impact stress as much as often required is, that these methods fail to take context into account.
It's not just about being stressed. It's about why you are stressed and how it affects you. And here's where stress at work becomes such a big bad guy: it's often due to social context which is difficult for the individual to control. As the research mentioned earlier
showed, most of the stress experienced at work comes from interactions rather than tasks. Stress is released when you are in contact with someone else and that someone is closely linked to the process of achieving your goals.
This means that in order to reduce stress we can't just focus on ourselves. We must take the bigger, social context into account. Are you aligned with company values? Is your manager managing you in an appropriate manner? Do you have healthy relationships with your coworkers?
While answering each one of these questions negatively can lead to a certain amount of stress, when several of the things mentioned above go wrong, the complexity of stress one single employee may feel at work becomes very apparent. 80% of employees feel stress on the job
, and nearly half of them say they need help in learning how to manage stress. 42% say their coworkers need such help as well. The reality is that we weren't prepared for this amount of stress and are lacking the tools to deal with it.
Employees claim they need help managing stress - not more time off work or less to do. This is an important finding that underlines why investing in company retreats and wellness isn't the best way to help employees reduce stress.
As a leader, how do you manage employee stress appropriately?