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Guest Blog: It’s Time to Take Action on Rising Workplace Stress

Elizabeth Ross HolmstromBy Elizabeth Ross Holmstrom, founder and president, BreakTogether. Elizabeth founded BreakTogether to improve health and business outcomes in office and tech environments. With 20 years of health and wellness design experience, most recently as VP of a national bank with 26,000 employees, she’s witnessed the power of mindful practices to improve the way we work.

These are challenging times for workers at all levels. We expect service and product excellence from ourselves and from others. With a smartphone in nearly every hand we demand 24/7 connectivity. The challenge is we humans need brief periods of disconnection to do our best work and to be healthy. Despite our attention to employee wellness, workplace stress continues to rise each year (read more).

Stress isn’t going away. We need to teach our employees how to manage stressful work.

Most companies offer lunch and short work breaks, yet most workers are no longer taking them. Rather than pausing to grab a cup of coffee and chat with a co-worker, we are constantly looking at our phones. Instead of lunching with friends or teammates, we are eating lunch over our laptops (that’s why our keyboards are sticky). As meetings get started, we aren’t talking to each other to connect or solve a problem, we are checking our emails until everyone arrives.

This pattern of behaviors means that our brains are constantly in fight or flight mode because our bodies are producing too much cortisol, the stress hormone. We need to stop.

The good news is that simple stress management practices take less than 10 minutes a day to achieve positive results.

Here are two ideas to get you started:

  • 2 for You: Take two minutes between projects, emails, or meetings. Start with 5 deep breaths (it immediately relaxes you), do a few stretches, or walk around the building. If you try these four times a day, your total time investment is 10 minutes, and I guarantee your work will improve and you will feel better.
  • 10 for Team: Start your next meeting with an unplugged interaction to build better relationships. Try one of these 10-Minute Meeting Kick-Off Activities.

Employers spend an average of $3,800 per employee per year on health insurance, and less than $10 on stress management training. Happily, this trend is beginning to change: 70% of Fortune 500 companies are offering mindful and resiliency programs as of 2018. With over 10 years of research, employers report improved employee engagement and reductions in unplanned absences, turnover, and safety incidents.

If you are already practicing these techniques in mindfulness, then you recognize the positive effects—on your employees and your culture.

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