Three evidence-based ways to build psychological know-how into working practices
While few people particularly enjoy stress, some level of it in life is a given.
And small amounts of stress can even be a motivator to get things done. So while we don’t really like this sort of pressure, per se, we typically regard it as a part of juggling obligations and living a full life.
But when stress is too intense or too frequent, it can become a health risk — both for individuals and the businesses who employ them.
Long-term and chronic stress is linked to both minor illnesses, such as more frequent colds, and more serious health issues, such as heart problems. Other effects can be trouble focusing or getting to sleep at night. In the workplace, stress and stress-related mental and physical health issues are linked to decreased productivity and engagement and increases in absenteeism, presenteeism and labour turnover, costing organisations worldwide billions. Stress is everyone’s business.
So how can companies help employees learn how to manage their stress more effectively?
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1. Encourage authenticity at work
Being professional doesn’t have to mean adopting an entirely separate work identity. Being yourself at work and putting your true strengths forward is correlated with lower anxiety and higher productivity and happiness. As a leader, you’re expected to pave the way for others.
But people won’t feel safe and behave more authentically overnight, these things take time. Taking a risk and being a bit more candid about your own emotions and struggles contributes a lot to building a culture where employees feel safe enough to reveal their authentic selves.
2. Create a culture of compassion
There is strong scientific evidence that working in supportive teams with clear goals dramatically lowers stress. Compassionate leadership and cultures increase staff engagement and result in improved financial performance. Fortunately, compassion is a behaviour, and it can be learned. There are four steps.
Listening and being present - acknowledge colleagues’ challenges and frustrations as well as their successes and joys.
Understanding - take the time to see things from others’ perspectives without imposing your own.
Empathising - make the effort to consider what it’s like for others without making what’s happening to someone about you and without becoming overwhelmed.
Helping - face challenges and take intelligent action to remove obstacles and provide resources as needed. This is not the same as just being ‘kind’. It’s a way of working together that builds compassion into ‘the way we do things around here’.
3. Build up psychological skills
Even in organisations committed to building compassionate cultures, where employees feel more comfortable bringing their authentic selves to work, companies will need to invest further to grow a future-proof workforce with solid psychological coping skills.
Options like mental health training (for line managers and employees) and science-based apps are available to help employees and organisations handle stress and improve resilience. There’s a lot of support for organisations that want to build the best organisation they can.
Workplace pressure is unavoidable and, in fact, necessary to help us stay responsive and agile. But taking the time and effort to build a compassionate work environment where people can be authentic is worth the investment. We can’t avoid problems and challenges, but we can face them with courage and keep developing our psychological and relational skills.
To find out more about how stress may be affecting your workforce (and what to do about it), download The science of stress (and why it’s a business risk).
In partnership with Koa Health
At Koa Health, we believe digital mental health solutions are the answer to mental health issues.