Whether you work in a cubicle farm or are lucky enough to have your own office, a desk job can be full of little stressors that just build and build – your coworkers yap all day while you’re trying to get things done; your boss keeps piling on work without asking; the kitchenette is such a mess that you have to wash dishes before you can grab coffee. These are all small things individually, but taken together over time, even seemingly insignificant strains like these can cause a blow up – especially if you’re working 50, 60, or even more hours in a week!
And that’s not the only problem. Allowing stress to fester without relieving it is bad for your health. You’ll find yourself frazzled, tired, forgetful, angry – people have developed ulcers over less. In fact, 75 percent of Americans describe their jobs as stressful, and a recent survey reported in the Times of India said that over a million women take pills to deal with stress at their jobs.
Employers aren’t any better off for this stressful environment. It’s estimated that employers in the U.S. lose $200 billion each year due to workers’ compensation, turnover, lower productivity, sick days, and medical insurance costs – all of which have been shown to be related to stress.
So, what can employees and employers do to rein in workplace stress? In general, there needs to be a bit of a release valve to let people blow off steam and get into a different mindset a few times a day for short periods. Here are some suggestions that you can do!
No, this isn’t suggesting that you do yoga in the middle of your office. However, a couple of simple stretches can often relieve physical stress and give your brain a break it desperately needs. Try little things like bouncing on the tips of your toes, rotating your neck and shoulders, and splaying your fingers.
Find gym lunch buddies
Most office workers aren’t going to be able to find time to just get up and leave for a few hours during the day, but you might be able to get in a quick 20-minute workout at lunch. Figure out a carpool with a few coworkers and make it part of your daily routine. You’ll return to work both invigorated and relaxed. Some offices even have deals with local fitness centers because they know how beneficial having happy, healthy employees can be. Check with your HR department.
Just walk away
Don’t worry, no one is telling you to give up your job – but taking a short walk outside once or twice a day can do wonders for your stress levels. In fact, studies recommend that you get up from your desk and walk around about once every hour if you can. It doesn’t have to be far – refilling your water bottle in the kitchen can even do the trick. Plus, getting up and walking away from your work every once in a while actually stimulates your brain, so you might just leave with a problem and come back with a solution!
Listen to music
It soothes the savage beast – why not you? With iPods and all kinds of online radio like Pandora, we’ve got more music options at our fingertips than ever before. Some workplaces don’t mind if you play music quietly, but even if it isn’t allowed, there are always headphones. Go for earbuds so that you can leave one out in case anyone calls for you.
Go (stress) balls out
Ahh, the old standby. Many jokes have been made about stress balls, but there is a reason we all know about them and they’ve become so prevalent – they work. Something about them is just soothing. If you ever feel like you’re about to gnash your teeth over something, whip out a stress ball and gnash it instead.
Some of the more progressive workplaces – tech companies, entertainment studios – have long known that their “creative types” need downtime in order to achieve maximum productivity. To that effect, there are many offices with things like foosball, ping pong, pool tables – even mini-gyms and video games. If your office hasn’t jumped on the stress-relieving bandwagon that playing around can provide, DIY and give yourself a few minutes of solitaire or another game of your choice to break the monotony. Just make sure you set a time limit!
Many of us feel weird about passing our work on to others for a variety of reasons – we don’t want it to seem like we can’t do it ourselves or it makes us guilty – but the truth is that delegation is a very important skill that every single person above you had to learn at some point. Rather than a weakness, knowing when to utilize the talents (and bandwidth) of someone else is a strength.
Just say no – within reason
With the job market the way it is, too many of us are afraid to say no to our employers because we’re afraid of annoying them and losing our jobs. Unfortunately, that means we take on more work than we can handle, and often this leads to us doing a job that isn’t up to our best standards. Sometimes you’re better off telling your boss no – but you have to be smart about it. Say you’re happy to take on their new project, but it will mean that your current one goes on the backburner. Many times, higher-ups forget that a particular employee may already be working on a full-time project. You can even go one better and impress your boss if you suggest a coworker you think would do a great job at this new task since your plate is full.
Please feel free to leave your comments and suggestions below.
Image Courtesy: Microsoft office