One of the unavoidable truths of life is that everyone experiences stress. For many, the workplace can be particularly stressful. Research by the CIPD found that 79% of HR leaders surveyed reported stress-related absences in their organization from 2020–2021; this rises to a staggering 91% in organizations with 250+ employees. This research shows that no matter what level people are at in their career, whether it be C-suite or an entry-level position, they experience stress, and it has a massive impact on business.
Creating a positive work environment is more important than ever as many people return to their offices. While the pandemic put mental and emotional strain on all of us, it inspired a conversation about what works best for employees. What is it about working in the comfort of their own homes that people like? How can that kind of comfortability be replicated in the workplace?
It Starts with Leadership
Leadership can be very rewarding, but with greater responsibility comes higher levels of pressure. Organizations work as a unit, so when a leader is stressed, it can be felt by everyone. Leaders who practice mindfulness can better keep their composure by gaining control over the space between stimulus and response. As an article from Healthline describes, “mindfulness is the practice of gently focusing your awareness on the present moment over and over again.”
A positive and calming work environment starts with leadership. A good leader is someone who is able to manage his or her stress and control his or her emotions in high-pressure situations. This person also needs to have a level of empathy for colleagues who are experiencing pressure, which will help him or her navigate these situations. A mindful leader is someone who will encourage employees to partake in practices that will alleviate stress and help manage the overall well-being of the organization.
How Can Individuals Manage Their Own Stress?
As society shifts to place a higher priority on mental health, organizations should have initiatives in place that combat stress and support employees before they are negatively impacted. Practicing mindfulness is one way organizations can tackle workplace stress; it encourages us to obtain a balanced mental state by taking time out of our day to concentrate on the present moment. When employees take this time for themselves, even if it’s just 5 minutes a day to go for a walk, listen to relaxing music, focus on deep breathing, or meditation, it helps them reset their minds and let go of the stress that has been accumulating throughout the day.
One way to boost employees’ mental health is by encouraging them to partake in daily practices that will help them form positive habits, keeping stress levels at a minimum. Additional tips include:
- Disconnecting from tech at various times of the day;
- Stepping away from your desktop/laptop completely and going for a walk;
- Calling a colleague on the phone instead of staring at a screen;
- Arranging a face-to-face meeting with someone to sit outside or have a coffee;
- Exercising several times per week and getting outside in the sun whenever possible; and
- Blocking time on the calendar to ensure there is time and space for deep work, as well as down time.
While people can’t always control what happens to them, they can learn to control how they react. Learning to use mindfulness to manage stress will only be successful if people continue to have these conversations and put initiatives in place. Leaders can actively use mindfulness by pausing for thought before starting a meeting or when they have to have a difficult conversation with an employee. They can have times scheduled every day for mindful breaks for their employees that give them an opportunity to breathe and focus on being present. These types of initiatives need to be inherent in today’s high-pressure work environments. Leaders who can find the balance between stress and well-being will create a healthy work environment that will raise company morale and inspire better results.
During Stress Awareness Month, I encourage all business and HR leaders to promote daily mindfulness throughout April; a good habit developed now will benefit your whole organization for years to come.
Anne Tiedemann is SVP People & Investor Relations at Glasswall.