If you have a job, you’ve probably got stress. Stress is a natural part of work. And it’s not all bad. Without some level of stress, you wouldn’t get anything done. When we have healthy levels of stress that motivate and engage us, that’s called good stress or ‘eustress’. The problem is that most of us have higher levels of stress than we need.
So, what do we do about it?
Too many people think that working more will solve the problem. Wrong.
Research found that employee output falls sharply after a 50-hour work-week, and falls off a cliff after 55 hours — so much so that someone who puts in 70 hours produces nothing more with those extra 15 hours .
Not only do we not get any more work done, those extra hours negatively affect our health and our relationships.
- 10 percent of those working 50 to 60 hours report relationship problems; the rate increases to 30 percent for those working more than 60 hours.
- Working more than 40 hours a week is associated with increased alcohol and tobacco consumption, as well as unhealthy weight gain in men and depression in women. 
So, if working more isn’t the answer, what is?
Well, you have to do something. But it’s not working more. Most people do nothing when faced with workplace stress. That just causes more anxiety.
The main causes of stress in the workplace that I’ve seen are:
- work overload
- interpersonal conflict
- lack of clarity — either around roles, goals or direction.
If you want to reduce your workplace stress, you have to take action. You have more work than three people could possibly do? Talk to your boss. You have an impossible co-worker? Have a conversation with them. Figure out how you can work together.
You have no idea where the project is going or what your role is? Ask questions to clarify these things.
There are many causes of stress at work. We are one of them. When we avoid dealing with difficult people or situations at work, we get more stressed out.
Don’t do nothing. Do something.
But first, ask yourself the following questions.
- Why is this so upsetting for me?
- How did I contribute to this situation?
- What can I learn from this situation?
- What can I do about this situation?
- What can I do differently next time?
Don’t skip this step. Too often we race into solving the problem before we’ve figured out what the problem is.
Maybe we think the problem is a co-worker who is slacking off and there is nothing we can do about it.When we ask ourselves, ‘how did I contribute to this?’ we might realise that we are contributing by being too chicken to have a conversation with our co-worker. Or we don’t think it’ll get us anywhere so we don’t bother. Or it went terribly last time so we don’t take a different approach, we just avoid it. Instead of dealing with the problem, we complain about how stressed out we are. But we don’t do anything about it. The situation usually gets worse. And we get more stressed out.
You may not get the result you want, but when you take action and deal with the issue, you reduce your stress. Doing something will decrease your stress even if you don’t get the result you were hoping for. You regain your own sense of power.