Posts Tagged ‘workplace stress’

Practicing Mindfulness In The New Year

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

mindfulnesshcwThe post below is a guest blog from Meaghan Roach who serves as Health Management Advisor for CAI’s employee benefits partner Hill, Chesson & Woody.

As 2015 has come to a close and we begin to embark on the adventure of another year, many of us will be making resolutions, promises to ourselves and our loved ones for a happier, healthier, better 2016.

But the reality for most adults is that we are too busy, too stressed, and have a to-do list a mile long. Frankly, when are we ever going to catch up on our daily activities, let alone find the time to better ourselves?

The answer may be found in mindfulness. UC Berkeley defines mindfulness as the practice of “maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.” Mindfulness can be cultivated through quiet periods of meditation, focused breathing techniques, and intentionally noticing your surroundings through each of your senses.

The Harvard Business Review recently published an article chronicling the success of a mindfulness and meditation program at Aetna. While most business leaders are spewing the standard “do more with less” and “increase productivity by working harder, faster, longer” jargon, Aetna’s CEO Mark Bertolini is taking a different route. Aetna began a mindfulness training program back in 2010 to teach employees how to better manage stress and center themselves throughout the day through yoga and meditation.

Aetna isn’t the only company instituting mindfulness practice into employee lives. Other major companies, like Intel, General Mills and Google, have created their own mindfulness programs. Google offers over a dozen courses on mindfulness to their employees, and the most popular of these courses – “Search Inside Yourself” – is now offered to other companies as a way to train leadership teams on bringing the practice into their own organizations. The list of participants in the SIY Leadership Institute yields more high-profile companies and institutions, including Ford, Comcast, American Express, and several universities.

Clearly, mindfulness is taking the corporate world by storm, and for good reason. Aetna’s program resulted in a 36 percent reduction in perceived stress by participants, and has increased participant productivity by an average of 62 minutes per week, which computes to $3,000 in increased productivity per participant each year. In addition to reducing stress, mindfulness has also been shown to improve your ability to focus, boost productivity and creativity, and increase your Emotional Intelligence, a key indicator of job success.

The New Year is the perfect time to interject mindfulness practice into your life and the lives of your employees. The holidays are often synonymous with stress and over-indulging, but the New Year brings the promise of a fresh start, in which we can shape our present lives to better fit our ideals for the future.

So, how do you begin? The idea of jumping headfirst into meditation may seem daunting, but that is not the only way to cultivate mindfulness in your daily life. Try creating a small habit at the beginning of each day: when you arrive at work, sit quietly for two to three minutes, doing nothing but feeling your breath and taking note of your surroundings.

For a beginner’s course in attentively using your senses, consider the raisin. This popular practice in mindfulness, especially mindful eating, has the participant experience a single raisin through sight, smell, feel, and taste.

For more information on starting a mindfulness program, and promoting employee well-being in a broader sense,  please reach out to HCW’s Health Management Department.

Overcoming a Toxic Workplace: Insights from Communication Expert Laura Hamilton

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

When Sunday afternoon rolls around, do you become worried or start to feel sick as you anxiously anticipate your return to the office?

Laura Hamilton, communication expert and president of her own consulting business based in Winston-Salem, N.C., says that being worried sick about going to work is a sign that your workplace is toxic. Workers in toxic environments usually have a gut feeling that something is awry in the company, says Laura.

Employees in these environments might feel as though opportunities to grow are limited and that working with their coworkers is challenging. Depending on how toxic their workplace is, employees may also feel a sense of panic, anxiety or that they have no place to go or no one to turn to for help.

Laura says that several factors help foster a toxic atmosphere. Individuals who partake in bullying, self-righteous or self-absorbed behavior can add to workplace chaos. Employees who strive for perfection or use passive-aggressive tactics to make their points can cause stress to their coworkers. Setting impossible project deadlines or practicing unfair bonus competitions can also make your staff feel overwhelmed.

If your environment is harmful, you should hold your management team partly responsible because research shows that a work environment is a reflection of how things run at the top. Laura points out that there are cases where one disgruntled employee can destroy the productivity in an entire department as well.

If you don’t take action to correct your toxic workplace, your company could suffer some of the following consequences:

  • Loss of productivity
  • Financial losses that affect the bottom line
  • Increase in absenteeism
  • Increase in insurance claims for stress-related diseases
  • Production of low-quality work

Not only will your business be affected, but Laura says that your employees will soon show wear and tear from the negative environment. Employees working under toxic conditions can feel anxious or angry. They may lose confidence or isolate themselves from their coworkers. Laura says that most employees don’t realize they are under so much pressure and stress, as their work environment becomes their “new normal.”

Unfortunately, management may not be aware of the toxic environment they are letting build up, says Laura. Although many workers might be hesitant to go to upper management and report how their work environment is affecting them, management can’t fix a problem if they don’t know one exists. Address the serious situation with your management team, and suggest ways that your company’s environment can be more positive and productive.

Laura Hamilton can be reached at Laura@laurahamilton.com for additional questions relating to toxic environments.

America is Stressed: Five Tips to Help Your Employees Prevent the Effects of Workplace Stress

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

The American Psychological Association (APA) released the results of its annual Stress in America survey on January 11, 2012.  More than 1,200 adults, aged 18 and older, participated in the survey that was conducted between August 11 and September 6 of last year.

In describing its findings from the survey, APA suggests that America is on the verge of a public health crisis due to stress:

“Participants’ responses have revealed high stress levels, reliance on unhealthy behaviors to manage stress and alarming physical health consequences of stress — a combination that suggests the nation is on the verge of a stress-induced public health crisis.”

As an employer, it is important to know that 70 percent of survey respondents cited work as one of their top stressors. The survey reveals that people understand the effects that stress can have on their health, but they are not taking adequate steps to prevent stress or manage it well, which causes them to experience symptoms, such as irritability, anger, fatigue, and lack of interest or motivation.

Employees who have high levels of stress struggle to perform at their best. For your company, this means less quality work, more errors, decreased morale, poor customer service and increased absenteeism if you decide to ignore the presence of stress in your workplace.

Our December post on stress offered tips on how you can help your employees maintain their stress levels. The tips below offer your employees tactics that they can utilize on their own to manage stress. Share and review the following with your workforce:

Press Pause

Many people experience stress because they regularly work up to their breaking points. Approaching work in that manner causes high anxiety and frequent fatigue, and completed products from this method are generally less than stellar. Avoid this behavior by taking breaks when necessary. Walking away from an overwhelming project for 15 minutes can help you calm down and return to work with a clear mind that is ready to focus.   

Lean on Colleagues

Do not be afraid to speak up when your workload is greater than you can handle. Companies who value teamwork are successful, so reach out to you coworker to see if he can spare ten minutes to help you review a document or complete a task. If help from your coworkers does not lighten your load, talk to your manager to see if she can help you create a system or action plan to complete your tasks.

Utilize Flexibility

More employers are offering their workforces flexibility around their schedules. With family duties and responsibilities not related to work, life can get stressful trying to balance it all. If you cannot afford a babysitter but need someone to watch your children after school, ask your manager if you can work at home for part of the day. If rush hour traffic lengthens your commute time or guzzles up your gas, ask if you can adjust your start time and end time. Show your appreciation for workplace flexibility by not taking advantage of the system and completing work during your redesigned schedule.    

Manage Time Effectively

Fifty-six percent of the survey participants believe that managing their time better will help them manage their stress. Time management is critical when working to complete several projects, but people who are stressed often spend time worrying about how they will finish their work, which leaves them with more frustration and less time to complete their projects. Stop this cycle by creating a list of the tasks that you need to get done. Prioritize the list by importance and deadline, and work hard to cross each item off. You can also break your long list into daily lists and indicate the tasks you wish to complete for each day of the week.

Be Healthy

APA’s survey revealed that participants ranked eating well and exercising at the bottom of the list when comparing factors that create a healthy lifestyle. Practicing good nutrition and fitness will immediately cause stress levels to go down. Healthy food provides your body with energy so you can stay alert for eight hours at work. Exercising multiple times per week gives you energy to focus and releases endorphins to help you stay positive. Sleep is also essential for battling stress. Getting at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep will help you recharge and feel refreshed for your next day of work.

According to the Stress in America survey, respondents have consistently listed work as one of their top stressors for the past five years. Be aware that this trend will likely continue for the next five years, so help your employees handle their stress to avoid burn out and achieve success for themselves and the organization. For more strategies on combating employee stress, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: bengerman