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How To Relieve Stress In The Workplace

General August 13th 2021
How To Relieve Stress In The Workplace

Most people who have ever held a job have at some point, felt the pressure of work-related stress. Any job can have stressful elements, even if you love what you do. On a day to day basis you may be struggling to meet a deadline or fulfil a challenging task. But when at work, stress becomes a constant feature, it can be overwhelming – and harmful to both physical and emotional health.

Common sources of work stress

Certain factors can lead to workplace stress and a combination of stressors can really take its toll. It’s important at this point not to turn to something unhealthy to help you cope, because this will not help you in the long term.

There are many sources of stress but some common workplace stressors are:

Excessive workloads

Few opportunities for growth or advancement

A noisy office

Work that isn’t engaging or challenging

Lack of social support

Conflicting demands or unclear performance expectations

Effects of uncontrolled stress

Unfortunately, work-related stress doesn’t just disappear when you head home for the day. When stress persists, it can take a toll on your health, wellbeing and inevitably seep over in to your personal and home life. Effects of uncontrolled stress are:

Headaches

Anxiety

Difficulty concentrating

Difficulty sleeping

High blood pressure and weakened immune system

These effects can have a huge negative impact on someone’s personal and working life and in turn chronic stress among employees could lead to a decline in productivity.

While stress at work is commonplace, finding a low-stress job is difficult in today’s market. A more realistic approach is to adopt effective coping strategies to reduce stress. Here are some stress management techniques you can try to relieve stress in the workplace.

Talk.

They say a problem shared is a problem halved and that could not be truer when it comes to relieving workplace stress. By starting an open conversation with your co-workers or supervisor you will be putting them in the picture about how you feel. The purpose of this isn’t to lay out a list of complaints, but rather to come up with an effective plan for managing the stressors you’ve identified, so you can perform at your very best on the job.

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You may not be fully aware of the amount of employer support that is available to you, such as online information, counselling and referral to mental health professionals. By putting somebody in the picture early on as soon as the first signs of stress become apparent, they can manage your stress levels against their expectations, which will relieve some of the stress you may be under.

If you’re not 100 percent comfortable sharing how you feel with co-workers or supervisors, then lean on your friends and family members. It’s likely that they will have or know someone who has had a very similar experience and they will be able to guide you on the best course of action.

If you don’t feel you have anyone to turn to at work or in your free time – it’s never too late to build new friendships. Meet new people with common interests by taking a class or joining a club or volunteering your time. As well as expanding your social network, helping others - especially those who are appreciative delivers great pleasure and can help significantly reduce stress.

Exercise

Aerobic exercise and activity that raises your heart rate and makes you sweat is a hugely effective way to lift your mood, increase energy, sharpen focus and relax both the mind and body. Rhythmic movement – such as walking, running, dancing, drumming, etc is especially soothing for the nervous system.

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For maximum stress relief, try to get at lease 30 minutes of activity a day. If it’s easier to fit in to your schedule, break up the activity into two or three shorter segments.

When stress is mounting, try to take a quick break and move away from the stressful situation by walking around the block once or twice. Walking and being active generally can improve your mood and boost your mental wellbeing.

Practice Mindfulness at work

With blue-chip companies like Google and Facebook rolling out mindfulness schemes for their employees, it’s clear that practicing mindfulness at work can improve how you feel and boost your productivity too.

In the busy workplace however, finding time for a 30-minute mindful exercise can be difficult. So, does that mean you can’t be mindful at all at work? No. Mindful exercises can be as short as you wish. Even one minute of consciously connecting with one of your senses can be classed as a mindful exercise. By practicing a short mindful exercise, you will help rebalance your nervous system, toning down the fight-or-flight response and engaging the wise part of your brain, so that you make reasoned decisions rather than automatically react to situations.

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There is an ongoing need for employees to find a quiet space to work or relax away from the noise of the busy office. It is for this reason that acoustic pods have become popular and have found themselves in many offices up and down the country. In addition to acoustic pods, wellbeing pods have also become popular as employees and employers are realising the benefits of mindfulness and meditation at work.

Have an office revamp

A lot of stress is unknowingly caused by the environment. Think about every aspect of your office space and what it does (or doesn’t do) for the wellness of your team. Simple things like the quality of the office chairs or height of office screens can all affect employee engagement.

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Update the office with an upbeat colour scheme, additional plants, acoustic tiles, or even new mugs! Sometime the small things can make the big differences. If you have the space, think about adding a ping pong table or table football table so employees can take their mind of their stress for a few minutes. Any changes that increase employee enjoyment will leave them feeling less stressed.

Recognise your employees.

With more people homeworking during and since the pandemic many have been working in isolation. Although this may suit some people, it makes it harder for employers and co-workers to identify a person’s stress levels day to day. In a medium sized company you would probably talk to or interact with around 15 – 20 people a day, but when working remotely you at best interact with a handful of people, usually family, neighbours, friends and the occasion Amazon delivery driver. None of these people really know what you do for a living, so a pat on the back or a high 5 for that new client or sale you’ve just landed is unlikely to come from them!

So, by recognising an employee's hard work and efforts and giving them praise can really boost their engagement. Each employee has a different personality, so be mindful when considering the best way to compliment them. Some employees may appreciate a call out during a zoom meeting or praise in a company-wide email, while the more reserved types might prefer an email or telephone call. However, if you choose to give praise, your employees will appreciate that you are aware of their success and want to share it with others. This makes them happier and more comfortable, which in turn lowers stress levels.

Eat healthy nutritious foods

Have you ever heard the phrase ‘eat your feelings’?

It’s a real phenomenon. Many people turn to unhealthy ‘comfort foods’ as stress management at work. Dealing with stress in this manner is not good. Why does this happen? Well, when we are stressed out, our brain releases the hormone cortisol, which makes us crave salty, sweet and fat-laden foods for the temporary pleasure they bring. But this is counter-intuitive as ‘stress eating’ only exacerbates the problem.

Sugar or fat loaded foods like pizza, burgers and ice cream make us feel lethargic and less likely to tackle the problems that lay before us, only increasing our stress further.

­­To maximise your energy, alertness and zest for life, eat whole foods that provide sustained energy, good nutrition and help to alleviate stress. These include fruits, whole grain, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. These foods will provide energy without causing surges in your blood sugar levels.

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Conclusion

In some instances, stress can work in our favour, as it can be energising and essential to certain activities. It stems back to our ‘flight or flight’ response which has been hardwired into our modern brains from our ancestors and essential for our survival. This stress is called good stress and, in the workplace, can help motivate us to when completing a task or pitching a project.

On the other hand, bad stress can be overwhelming. When bad stress creeps in, it’s usually because the demands placed on you at work exceed your ability to control things. There is a correlation between demand and control and if there are just too many demands on you, you feel like you don’t have enough control over your work. This type of bad stress can result in physical and mental symptoms.

It’s very important for your mental and physical health to manage workplace stress and not push yourself towards burnout. If you feel you are in a toxic work environment and need professional help, reach out to your workplace’s human resources department. The most important thing is that you look after your own wellbeing. And, even if you can’t control the stress around you, you can learn to control your reactions – and that can make a huge difference.

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