Stress Management at Work: Be More Effective and Productive

15.06.2018 |

Episode #5 of the course How to be good at stress by Dr. Kimberlee Bethany Bonura


Welcome back!

According to one study, most full-time working professionals spend at least 47 hours a week at work. Another study says that most US people are stressed about their jobs (61%) and, related to work, money (62%). While work is a normal part of life, we don’t have to accept workplace stress. Today, we’ll discuss how we can shift perspective, improve our skill sets for managing and mitigating stress in the workplace, and improve the overall quality of those almost 50 hours a week we spend at work.


Keep Work at Work

First and foremost, you need to realize the importance of life outside of work. Even if you love and live for your job, you still need time in your life for sleep, exercise, and social connection. If you don’t love your job, stop beating yourself up about it. In a poll by Money Magazine, only 14% of respondents said they were in their dream career. A full 20% said they couldn’t stand their work, and another 42% said their job was okay. Is it ideal to have your dream career? Of course. Is it normal to make do with a good-enough job? Yes, and you should cross “beat myself up over not having the perfect job” from your stress to-do list.

One key strategy for reducing workplace stress is to keep work at work. Set boundaries and maintain time for rest and self-care. Research from the University of Florida looked at late-night work-related smartphone usage. Late-night workers got less sleep and were more tired than workers who logged off and took personal time. Late-night workers were also less focused at work. Being constantly on makes you less effective and less productive. Consider an even more striking workplace example: According to one study, when medical interns worked traditional 24-hour shifts, they made more serious medical errors than when they worked 16-hour shifts with rest periods between shifts. Having the opportunity to rest and recover reduced serious medical errors by 36%. Bottom line: Rest matters. Keep your work hours manageable and leave work at work.


Plug Leaks and Stop Multitasking

While you’re at work, you want to reduce the unnecessary stressors—the hassles and irritants—that diminish the quality of your time. First, take some time to reflect on and identify attentional leaks. Attentional leaks are like pinholes in the balloon of your focus and energy. If you’re on a conference call but keep an eye on your email and something pops up, you may get distracted and lose your focus. Attentional leaks may cause tasks to take longer—identifying, mitigating, and addressing them can improve your efficiency and reduce time to complete key tasks.

Remember also that multitasking is a myth. It may seem like you’re getting more done by doing two or three things at once, but cognitive research indicates that you are actually switching back and forth between the competing tasks. The cognitive switching takes time and increases the likelihood of error. You’ll get more done faster and with fewer errors if you focus on one task at a time.


A Positive Work Environment

Remember, too, that the quality of your physical workplace environment impacts your workplace experience. For instance, research shows that nature contact at work reduces stress and improves general health and wellbeing. According to another study, if you can position your desk near a window, your health (and even sleep!) will improve.

A desk plant brings nature into your office: Consider plants found by NASA to improve indoor air quality, such as the Areca palm, or classics, like the Boston fern and Ficus. And stop treating your desk as your lunchroom: Research shows that leaving your desk and eating a meal with colleagues or friends is an effective way to reduce stress and experience mid-day relaxation.

Your task: Set two simple, concrete goals to improve your workday. (1) Pick a reasonable time to unplug and sign off from work and stick to it. (2) Identify one change you can make to your work environment or schedule. Hopefully, you’re feeling better about work!

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about how you can shift stress to excitement and how a simple shift in mindset can transform your day.


Recommended reading

Planting Healthier Indoor Air


Recommended book

Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink


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