The Japanese concept of “Karōshi” can almost literally be translated as “death from overwork.” The term first came into common usage in Japan during the 1980s after rising concern following the sudden death of several high-ranking business men who showed no signs of previous health issues. “Karōshi” has been attributed to a wide variety of stress-related medical issues, such as high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke, to name a few.
There have been extensive studies on the effects of stress on a workforce’s overall health and wellbeing. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), 54% of workers are concerned about health problems due to stress. And, Express Employment Professionals’ recent Hiring Trends survey showed that 88% of company leaders say their current work stress is as high or higher than last year. It’s a serious problem that companies and their employees are being forced to address.
So, how do you reduce workplace stress? There are a wide variety of techniques and countless books about eliminating stress in your life. But, the first and most important step is to know the warning signs of stress, which can vary between individuals. In a recent APA study, some of the most common indicators of excessive stress included fatigue, irritability, lack of interest or motivation, head and stomach aches and insomnia. So it’s important to find a stress reducing activity that best fits your symptoms and lifestyle to help eliminate tension and keep you healthy and happy.
Take short breaks
The human body wasn’t made to sit in one position and stare at a computer screen for eight hours a day. Make it a point to stand up and take a quick walk around the office every hour or two. Go grab a small, healthy snack. Say hello to a coworker. Or simply just stand up at your desk and stretch. Find a quick and simple activity you can do throughout the day to get your body moving and break up the monotony.
Make simple lifestyle changes
You can make a significant impact on stress levels by just making a few simple lifestyle changes. Take some time to clean and reorganize your workspace. Eat a healthy breakfast. Go to bed an hour earlier. Cut back on sweets or sodas. These aren’t major decisions, and you’ll be surprised how little it actually takes to make a noticeable difference in how you feel.
Get some exercise
Exercise can do wonders for your stress and anxiety levels. Just a half-hour a day a few times a week can make a huge difference in your stress level. The important part is finding an activity you enjoy so you don’t think of it as something you have to do. Whether it’s as simple as a walk through a local park, swimming laps at the gym or taking a yoga class, a little bit of activity can go a long way.
Use your vacation time
If you have vacation time, don’t be afraid to use it. Taking a few days here and there to escape the daily grind of the work week is one of the best ways to recharge your mind and body. By allowing time to focus on the most important parts of your life, like family and friends, you will return to work more productive and better prepared to handle stressful situations.
If you’re a leader at your company, it’s also important to keep a close eye on the overall stress levels of your employees. When you do notice a spike in stress, act quickly. There are a variety of tactics you can use to help ease some of the tension. You just need to be aware and understand what causes the build up in stress and then act accordingly.
Some examples of changes you can make on an organizational level to reduce stress could include:
• Redistribute employee workloads or hire new full-time or temporary workers to help take some of the burden off your current employees’ shoulders.
• Provide opportunities for fun and bonding outside of work.
• Open the lines of communication to be sure your employees understand their jobs and why they are important.
• Allow your employees to participate in discussions and decision making that affect the business.
• Help your employees define development goals to help guide their careers in the right direction.
The impact of stress on health and wellbeing can be profound and indiscriminate. Employees at all levels are prone to developing stress-related illnesses, and those who choose to deal with the issue head on are the ones who stand the best chance of overcoming it.