There are two kinds of stress in the workplace: toxic and productive.
Toxic Stress is identifiable by its negative impact. Productivity and motivation decrease, efficiency is compromised and health suffers.
Productive Stress on the other hand, can be motivating and contribute to moving a project forward, also to creating a healthy, results driven atmosphere where employees are motivated and work well as a team.
Productive stress can produce momentum, where toxic stress can result in inertia or compromised results. If you work or own a business, manage a business, or are an investor, if you are a CEO, an executive, or even on the beginning rungs of the working ladder you should care about these two kinds of workplace stress.
Why? Because just as 80 percent of chronic disease is lifestyle related, toxic stress in the workplace is directly linked to company performance and employee illness. So how can you identify toxic stress and what can you do about it?
Potential Contributors to Toxic Stress / Negative Work Culture
- Unclear communication about roles and responsibilities
- Micro-management (not giving employees the room to do their job properly)
- Perceived (or actual) lack of respect from management or peers
- Actions that disempower or devalue the employee
- Lack of recognition for performance / lack of opportunity for advancement
Resulting symptoms of a toxic work environment can include psychological strain, exhaustion, lowered immunity, increased susceptibility to illness, digestive imbalances, inability to focus on tasks at hand, heart strain. Sick days increase, productivity decreases. Employee turnover goes up. The company becomes less competitive as efficiency suffers. Nobody wins.
Positive Work Culture
A positive working environment is a place where all employees are allowed to contribute positively to the bottom line of the organisation through their talents and skills, without having to trade off their health and well being in the process. This type of environment is achieved through good and visionary leadership, as well as accountability. It is also achieved through congruence (the recognition by management and the realisation by employees of how interconnected everything is: work, stress, health, company performance).
What is your workplace atmosphere like? When you arrive at work (as the manager or employer), is there a light air in the room. Are people happy? Meeting deadlines? Thriving? Or is the room heavy? Is there a sense of strain? Would you describe the stress in the air as productive or toxic? It is realistic for businesses to take care of their workforce. Leaders and managers want to be treated well. So do the rest of the employees. It's a matter of doing unto others as you would like to be done to you.
People can aim to be humane with each other. The simple question: how do I think my co-worker/subordinate's health could be impacted by my interaction with her/ him and how would I feel if the tables were turned, would go a long way in protecting the health and promoting the well-being of everyone. In the meantime, while all of that is being worked out, how to cope?
Dealing with Workplace Stress / Blow off Steam
The quickest and best way to counteract feelings of stress is based in the science of your body and is plain and simply, to blow off steam (disperse the physical and psychological energy that builds under stress).
- Exercise counteracts stress by the release of endorphins – it also dispells the built up energy that accompanies stress and gives you a mental break from your desk. Walk or run up and down the stairs a few times, do some jumping jacks, a few push-ups, even a walk or some squats – every little bit helps.
- Social Support – talking to someone can help put things in perspective.
- Brain and Mood Food – Aim for foods that feed your body instead of take away from it. A whole-food plant-based diet is the way to go. This will help you stay mentally focussed and give your body the energy it needs to cope with deadlines.
- A Positive Attitude can also make all the difference in helping you manage the effects of toxic stress. Laugh about it if you can.
- One step at a time. One moment, one goal, one step at a time toward the deadline. A Healthy Perspective when stress looms can help disperse perceptions.
There is a reason business leaders like Richard Branson put employees first, and renowned business coaches like Bob Nelson say, "An employee's motivation is a direct result of the sum of interactions with his or her manager." Company, employee, executive and our personal body health and wellbeing is all interlinked. The question then, in business and in health is, how much more powerful can you be?