Managing Stress in the Workplace: 12 Stress Management Tips for Managers

Your body naturally reacts with stress when you face a challenging or demanding situation. This natural reaction can happen a lot at work, especially if you work in a fast-paced, demanding field. Sometimes stress pushes you to work harder, but other times it has a negative effect. When employers effectively manage stressful situations, it sets a positive example for the rest of their team and promotes mental health in the workplace. That’s why it’s important to research techniques and practice strategies for managing stress in the workplace.

 

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What is workplace stress? 

Workplace stress refers to the emotional and physical responses to a combination of factors or a single event at your job. These stressors are often directly related to your work environment, coworkers or professional expectations. Most people experience work-related stress in the form of tension or anxiety at least occasionally, regardless of their industry or career. Others experience almost nonstop stress due to various working conditions.

 

Related: Mitigating Employee Burnout: Action Items for Managers

 

Reasons why managers become stressed 

Recognizing common reasons for feeling stressed can help you change your situation. Managers experience stress at work for several reasons, including:

 

  • The expectations for their performance are unclear.
  • There is a lack of personal and professional support.
  • Their work isn’t challenging or engaging enough.
  • They think there are too few opportunities to advance or develop any further in their career.
  • Their workload is too much.
  • Their salary is too low or unequal to the work they’re doing.

Tips for managing work stress 

Even though some stress is normal, learning how to manage stress at work is important. It helps you stay healthier and increases productivity. Here are some steps you can take to manage your stress more effectively.

 

1. Track your stressors

It’s easier to reduce your stress when you know what’s causing it. Work, in general, can be stressful, but you can often tune into specifics to help you make changes. To identify the circumstances that contribute to your stress levels, it’s helpful to keep a journal for a week or two. Make note of the situations that you find most stressful, as well as the circumstances surrounding it, such as the:

 

  • Environment or physical setting
  • People involved
  • Thoughts and feelings you had
  • Your response to the situation in the moment
  • Your actions immediately following the event

By recording your stressors, you can identify patterns and your coping mechanisms. Use this information to evaluate how you can handle these situations better in the future. Become more aware of the stressors you identify, and develop healthier responses when those situations happen again.

 

2. Start the day with low stress

If you’re running late or aren’t prepared, you’re starting your workday with stress. By the time you hit your first stressful event at work, you’re already on edge, which makes your stress response even more intense. Deal with stress and routines outside of work to set yourself up for a more successful workday. Review your schedule to ensure you can have a low-stress commute that isn’t rushed or difficult. Address stressors at home to help you feel more relaxed overall. When you can start your day refreshed and relaxed, dealing with stressful situations is often easier.

 

3. Establish boundaries

Technology allows us to have constant access to work, but it’s important that you create work-life boundaries for yourself. These boundaries are different for everyone but usually come in the form of limiting work activities during certain days or times. For example, you could make a rule that you only check your work email during normal business hours or refrain from answering your phone during dinner.

 

4. Practice relaxation techniques

Intentionally relaxing is a great tool for overcoming stress. There are many ways to do this, including:

 

  • Mindfulness: Using this strategy, you enter a state where you can observe your thoughts and experiences without judging or reacting to them.
  • Deep breathing: Dedicate time to focus on your breath without distraction. When you feel your stress levels rising, take deep, intentional breaths to help you calm down.
  • Meditation: This practice combines both mindfulness and deep breathing to help you relieve stress and restore balance. Regular meditation can help you feel calmer overall and deal with stress better.
  • Guided imagery: Your work environment often contributes to your stress levels. Imagine a more relaxing situation or experience to deal with stress. The image you create in your mind is a soothing technique that can help you relax.

Regardless of what strategy you use, practice it regularly so you can become better at it and then apply it when you feel your stress levels increasing.

 

5. Take time off

Taking a break from work activities helps you mentally reset. When you return to work, you’re better able to deal with potentially stressful situations. Use your vacation days and set aside intentional time when you can turn off your phone and focus on something other than work. Taking time off allows you to return to work feeling refocused and reinvigorated.

 

6. Develop healthy habits

It’s very important that you develop healthy strategies for handling your work-related stress. When you begin to feel tension, having a plan in place to combat it allows you to overcome it in a way that is sustainable and beneficial. These stress-relieving habits can come in many forms, such as:

 

  • Reading
  • Exercising
  • Doing a hobby
  • Listening to music

Additionally, getting enough quality sleep is key to stress management. Develop healthy sleep habits by reducing your caffeine intake and limiting stimulating activities before bed.

 

7. Rethink the workplace culture

Your workplace culture sets the tone for every employee. If the company culture emphasizes a highly competitive environment, no breaks and long hours, you and everyone else will likely be stressed forever. Evaluate the culture and ensure it supports stress management. Improve the culture with little changes to help everyone reduce their stress.

 

8. Improve your environment

The physical workplace environment can impact stress levels. Create a calming, relaxing environment to improve your mood. Cool colors, especially blue and green, tend to have a calming effect and can be good office colors. Here are some other ways to improve the physical environment:

 

  • Add office plants to the workplace for a relaxing feeling.
  • Upgrade to a comfortable chair.
  • Use a white noise machine or find ways to reduce noise in your office.
  • Include pictures and other decorations that make you happy.
  • Maximize natural light in your work space.

9. Get social

Keeping to yourself at work can increase your stress. Build relationships with your employees to feel at ease. Social interactions are enjoyable, which can help blow off steam, and they build stronger relationships with employees. This improves teamwork, which can reduce stress by cutting down on conflicts.

 

Getting to know employees better might also help you manage them better, which can reduce your stress. For example, you might be frustrated and stressed by an employee who shows up late a few days per week. When you get to know the person, you might find out they have childcare issues some days, which makes them late. Knowing this makes you feel empathy for the employee instead of getting frustrated. You might be able to come up with solutions, such as letting the employee bring the child to work or allowing a flexible work schedule, to improve the situation.

 

10. Learn how to manage conflict

As a manager, conflict is common. You might butt heads with other managers or employees. It’s also common for you to get called in when employees you supervise have disputes that they can’t resolve. Learning and using conflict resolution skills can ease the tension and lower stress. Teach your employees how to listen to one another and come up with solutions to solve disputes themselves.

 

11. Stay organized

A messy, disorganized office adds to your stress. Just seeing the clutter can make you feel anxious, which puts you on edge and amplifies stress. It’s also difficult to find the items you need, which delays your work and increases stress. If your office isn’t organized, work on clearing the clutter and putting organizational systems in place.

 

12. Reframe negative thoughts

Another managing stress example is reframing your negative thoughts. Getting into a negative mindset encourages more negativity and can increase stress levels. When you notice a negative attitude taking over, flip your thoughts to something more positive. For example, if you face a new challenge at work, you might think, “I can’t handle this. I have no experience in it. This could ruin the business.” To reframe it, you might change that to, “This is a new challenge that gives me the chance to learn something new and try new solutions.” You’re giving it a positive spin to make it seem more doable and less negative.

 

FAQs about workplace stress management

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about stress management at the workplace.

 

What are the four A’s of stress management? 

When faced with a stressful situation, you have four options, which are commonly referred to as the four A’s:

 

  • Avoid: You can eliminate a lot of stressors by avoiding them. For example, you can avoid taking on too much, individuals who cause you stress and places or activities (such as the news) that make you tense. You can also remove items from your to-do list that are unnecessary or unimportant.
  • Alter: If a stressful situation is impossible to avoid, try changing the way you interact with it. Practice compromise and express your feelings if someone’s behavior is adding to your tension.
  • Adapt: When a stressor can’t be changed, adapt to it by changing your attitude and expectations. Reflect on things that you’re thankful for, set manageable standards for yourself and others and keep the situation in perspective.
  • Accept: Some stressful situations are unchangeable. For these scenarios, acceptance is often the only way to cope. Remember to express your feelings, forgive yourself and others, search for opportunities for growth in the situation and stop trying to control the uncontrollable.

How can employers reduce stress in the workplace?

Any member of your staff can experience workplace stress. As a leader, it’s important for employers to create environments where employees feel heard and encouraged. Here are a few strategies for reducing the stress levels of your team:

 

  • Lead by example: Demonstrate effective stress-relieving techniques in your life and employees may be encouraged to adopt the same strategies for themselves.
  • Value employees: Make sure that every employee feels valued at your organization by recognizing their contributions. If employees never get recognition or feedback, they don’t know how you feel about their work, or they think they’re not appreciated. This can increase stress and decrease engagement.
  • Offer health benefits: Provide employees with access to health benefits so they can maintain their physical and mental health affordably. Staying mentally and physically healthy better prepares employees to handle stressful situations.
  • Establish an assistance program: An employee assistance program gives your employees a resource for mental and emotional health issues. They get access to counselors and other services that can help them deal with high stress levels or other issues.
  • Require breaks: Encourage your staff to use their vacation days and take breaks. Additionally, try to dissuade them from checking in while they use their paid time off.
  • Establish healthy initiatives: Create initiatives that help your employees move throughout the day. This is great for their physical and mental health, but it also has the added benefit of refocusing employees. One way to do this is to install desks that can convert into standing desks.
  • Encourage physical activity: Create an environment that encourages physical activity. You can do this by offering discounted gym memberships or inviting your staff to take walks during their lunch breaks.
  • Offer flexible schedules: If flexible schedules are compatible with your industry, give your employees more flexibility around when and where they work. Working in different locations can help employees relax, feel more productive and reduce stress.

What are the benefits of reducing workplace stress?

Managing stress at the workplace can have many benefits for individuals and the team. Here are some benefits:

 

  • Lower risk of physical health issues associated with stress, such as headaches, chest pain and insomnia
  • Improved workplace morale
  • Increased productivity
  • Decreased employee absenteeism
  • Better focus and performance
  • Fewer mistakes and workplace accidents
  • Better collaboration
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