By Natalie Cann on Wed, May 30, 2018
“Wish we could turn back time to the good ol’ days…but now we’re stressed out!” — Twenty One Pilots
There’s a reason why the hit song “Stressed Out” by Twenty One Pilots has struck such a chord with listeners. We’re living in an epidemic of workplace stress. Each month I hear stories of employees landing in the hospital if only because it offers them a brief reprieve from expectations of being connected and available 24/7, or just as likely because their immune systems have been worn down from incessant connectivity and overwhelming demands. In 2015, I saw friends and people in my professional network with problems ranging from anxiety disorder to depression or worse. If they were lucky, they simply got away with neck or back troubles — most of them were only in their 30s.
Our Fortune 500 corporate clients report everything from increased usage of expensive pharmaceutical sleep aids due to stress and lack of sleep to increased suicide attempts from feelings of being overwhelmed.
But it’s not all doom and gloom and the good news is there is hope! Brain health is plastic and can be assessed and changed. Whether you’re the Head of HR for your organization and tasked with improving employee benefits and wellness, or just a manager responsible for your team’s productivity, here’s some tips for tackling and helping some of the most common employee workplace resilience challenges we see:
1. More Interpersonal Connections — In today’s world of social media and workplace online chats, it’s often common to lose touch with interpersonal, face-to-face communication. I personally have been guilty of sending a HipChat or Slack message to a co-worker that sat next to me in the same office. But our corporate clients become concerned when this leads to feelings of disconnectedness. It’s important to take time to create face-to-face socialization for our own well-being. This is especially relevant if you work in a highly technical field such as engineering. Encourage this for your team and set an example by doing it yourself.
2. Bootcamp for Life Skills — Our corporate clients report a period of struggle at the beginning of the transition from college to the workplace. This is not a new phenomenon as we hear managers and companies bemoan the quirks and habits of millennials all the time. But it makes sense when you consider the increasingly competitive environment of academia which left them engrossed in devoting every waking hour to succeeding either at school or in their extracurricular activities. The unintended consequence was a new crop of workers that lacks basic life skills — how to cook for themselves, do laundry, show up to work on time and refrain from drinking too heavily while traveling or at work events. Things that seem common sense to most of us need to be recognized and nurtured in those making the transition to the workplace. So be as kind, forgiving, supporting and empathetic as is appropriate in a work setting.
3. Get More Sleep — It has become a badge of honor in many workplace circles to get only 4–5 hours of sleep or check in and respond to emails during normal sleep/wake cycles throughout the night, even at 2am. Many people check their mobiles just before bed and first thing when they wake up, meaning their mobiles are left next to their night stands all night, often without the do not disturb setting on. But for some of our clients in the manufacturing industry, not getting enough sleep can be not only unhealthy, but costly and unsafe, and in some cases the difference between life and death. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can be as dangerous as being drunk . Would you want a drowsy person as your Uber driver or as a physician operating on your knee? Probably not. Some workplaces instill a no email / text policy from 10am to 6am in an employee’s specific time zone, but do whatever works in your culture to encourage ZZZs. You’ll reap the rewards of a safer, healthier, less stressed and more productive work environment.