Financial Data
Updated 21 Jan 2019

How to manage stress in the workplace

Is office morale at an all-time low? Stress might have something to do with this. Here’s how you or your managers could help employees get through the tough(er) times in life.

21 March 2018  Share  0 comments  Print

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Rebecca Knight, a senior lecturer at Wesleyan University in the USA andHarvard Business Reviewauthor, says: “We all know people who seem to be constantly stressed out. They claim they’re buried in work, they’re burdened with projects, and they don’t have a spare minute in the day.”

Stress is overpoweringly widespread in today’s society. “Sleep deprivation, poor health, relationship woes and financial concerns can all take their toll, however the number one cause of stress, is work related pressures,” says research firm Statistic Brain.

The impact of stress on companies

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Statistics show that job stress cost American companies more than USD300 billion annually.

The American Institute of Stress says businesses are paying up to 50% more annually in health costs for stressed workers. “Employers are dealing with direct effects of stress that impact profitability. Loss of productivity, absenteeism, staff turnover and disengagement rise too.”

Your role in lessening workplace stress

Stress affects everyone. Caroline Webb, author of How to Have a Good Day says we all go through periods when we are dealing with a lot of stress:

“Stressful periods could last up to 10 minutes, or even 10 days, or sometimes 10 months. But for some people, stress can also be habitual.”

Webb explains that it’s easy to spot these habitually stressed individuals in your workplace because they are regularly feeling overwhelmed, stretched thin and feeling out of their depth.

Related: Are you busy and stressed all the time?

Holly Weeks, author of Failure to Communicate adds that working with stressed out people can be a challenge, but you must take a neutral approach: “Don’t think, ‘What can I do to change this person?’ Think about how to calm the situation.”

Remember this

Great business leaders and managers can help their colleagues cope in the most stressful situations by creating a healthy workplace environment. But how do you create such an environment?

Start by casting any judgement aside

One of the first steps in helping colleagues deal with stress is to not judge them.

People’s tolerance levels for stress vary, and stress that may be stimulating to you might not be manageable for someone else. “Unless you’re a qualified workplace therapist, judging someone’s way of handling stress as ‘inappropriate’ can be deemed as unprofessional,” Knight says.

Try this

Why not think of your stressed-out colleague’s nervous outlook as a characteristic that makes them unique and valuable to the business, not a character flaw?

Related: Finding the time and energy to manage your stress

Harvard Business Reviewnotes that your colleague might be negatively responding to the ‘always-on’ way of work, arguing that there was a time when professionals could go home and forget about work until the next day. The digital era’s burden to ‘stay connected’ can weigh on some people’s shoulders more than others.

How successful business people deal with stress

Anyone who works in a professional environment can be exposed to stress on a regular basis. Here is how a few of the world’s most successful businesspeople avoid getting stressed out:

1. Bill Gates likes to de-stress by reading in bed:Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates says that he prefers to read something invigorating before he sleeps no matter how late it is. Reading a book helps him de-stress and unwind.

2. Tim Cook avoids cynics in his life:Apple CEO Tim Cook recommends that to stay positive, you need to tune out the negative noises in life. He believes that the world is full of cynics and you have to tune them out or you’ll begin thinking about life negatively.

3. Warren Buffet strums his stresses away:Warren Buffet is one of the world’s leading investors. When it comes to de-stressing, he doesn’t read or isolate himself, he picks up his ukulele and starts playing. Learning to play a musical instrument can help alleviate stress.

4. Sheryl Sandberg turns off her devices at night:Facebook chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg says she prefers to break away from her smart devices at night to de-stress. She believes she benefits by not being disturbed throughout the night, making for a better night's sleep, enabling her to deal with any stressful situations the next day.

 Take action and manage stress like a boss

1. Acknowledge your colleague’s stresses

It’s advised that you make the stressed-out employee feel ‘seen and heard’ by talking and listening to them, according toHBR. Acknowledging an employee’s stress gives you both a chance to move beyond it.

2. Praise them for their performance to date

One of the best ways to de-stress a stressed employee is to offer them a compliment. It’s believed that by praising an employee’s performance, you give that person an alternative ‘self-image’; one of being a competent, positive professional.

3. Give them some managerial assistance

Once the stresses have been isolated and discussed, take action and plan a schedule with the employee.  Ask if there’s anything you, or anyone in the team can do to help.


Each employee reacts differently in stressful situations, which means there’s no one-size-fits-all approach for you to leverage. You can, however, offer open lines of communication by encouraging employees to raise stresses or concerns with you before it starts to overwhelm them.

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