In the U.S., white-collar employees work 50 hours or more each week. That doesn’t include the hours people hang around the office so their boss can’t see when they are checking e-mail or social media.
Additionally, American workers don’t take as much vacation time as some other countries. Surprisingly, one quarter of American workers are employed at companies that don’t offer vacation time. Those that do offer vacations provide an average of 10 to 14 days a year, but many employees don’t use it all or they take work with them. As a result, it feels like work is never done.
Employees return from vacation more productive and happier. And companies that measure performance, rather than counting long hours of face time, say they see the benefits of vacation time.
Surveys of manager and CEOs and compensation studies, show that employers reward employees who come in early, eat lunch at their desk, stay late and have no life outside of the office. The same survey also indicates that American workers are burned out, disengaged and getting sick from so much work.
In addition, modern workers are interrupted seven times every hour and are distracted up to 2.1 hours a day. And four of 10 people working at large companies are experiencing a major corporate restructuring and, therefore, facing uncertainly about the future. This may be why more than 40 percent of adults say they lie awake at night plagued by stressful events of the day.
What can your organization do to help workers feel less stress?
The best approach to reducing job stress is asking managers to lead by example. Managers should encourage and lead employees in stress-relief activities, such as walking, healthy eating and laughing.
Conduct employee satisfaction surveys on a regular basis. Find out exactly what is stressing your employees.
Many ideas never bubble up because of a silo approach to work and corporate hierarchies. Some fixes are simple: flexibility, considering alternate work hours and creating a culture that rewards efficiency. Others have to do with helping workers handle stress. Companies have to be willing to deal with the source of the stress workplace culture, rigid work hours or the expectation of long hours in the office.
Tips employees can embrace to eliminate or reduce stress
- Act rather than react – Identify the aspects of a situation you can control and aspects you can’t. Typically, you are in control of your actions and responses, but not in control of outside forces or someone else’s tone.
- Take a deep breath – If you feel overwhelmed or are coming from a tense meeting and need to clear your head, a few minutes of deep breathing will restore balance.
- Eliminate interruptions – Most of us are bombarded during the day. Emails, phone calls, pop in’s, instant messages and sudden, urgent deadlines which make today’s workers more distracted than ever. While you may not have control over the interrupters, you can control your response. Respond in one of three ways: Accept the interruption, cut it off, or diagnosis its importance and make a plan. Many interruptions are recurring and can be anticipated. You can also train those around you by answering email during certain windows, setting up office hours to talk in person or closing the door when you need to focus.
- Schedule your day for energy and focus – Schedule breaks throughout the day to walk, stretch at your desk or do a breathing exercise. Try to work in pulses – 90 minute periods of focused work without the distractions of e-mail or telephone – and be mindful about what your priorities are.
- Eat right and sleep well – Eating badly will stress your system and when you’re not sleeping well, you’re not rejuvenating. Eat a low-sugar, high-protein diet. If you have trouble falling asleep, or you wake up and can’t get back to sleep, try a simple breathing technique: Cover your right nostril and breathe through your left for three to five minutes.
- Positive thinking – This has been shown to increase a person’s life span, lower rates of depression, improve coping skills during hardship and even provide greater resistance to the common cold.
Sources: SHRM.org and Forbes
Debbie Strahle, Partnership Manager