Implement These Top Workplace Stress Relief Activities

With back-to-back meetings, a steady flow of incoming emails and increased workloads, stress is triggered by many factors in the workplace. It’s unavoidable. At some point, every employee at every company will feel stressed and overburdened. Prolonged stress can lead to several adverse effects, such as declining performance, physical problems like a weakened immune system and ultimately burnout.

While many have attempted to construct all-encompassing plans to tackle stress reduction in the workplace, there is no universal solution. There are many workplace stress relief activities that both employees and employers can undertake to improve the overall environment. It’s all about finding something that works for you. And we’ve got some activities to consider.

What Contributes to Stress in the Workplace?

Before diving into stress management in the workplace, we must first understand how these feelings emerge.

Role in the organization: Employees can become overwhelmed by conflicting job demands, holding too many roles or having many direct reports.

Career progression: Worries about job security and lack of opportunity for growth can undermine job satisfaction.

Relationships at work: Whether it be a lack of support from your co-workers or instances of harassment, unpleasant interactions can contribute to unease in the workplace.

Organizational structure & management style: Have you ever finished a big project, which had positive benefits for your employer, with little or no recognition for your work? Does your opinion often go unheard? Are there systems in place to express your concerns? Poor avenues of communication can be counterproductive and diminish employees feeling of belonging and importance.

Work-life balance: Disconnecting after working hours is essential for maintaining good mental health.

Related: Time Management Strategies for Workplace Stress Relief

Workplace conditions: A clean and welcoming space can contribute to a more relaxed working environment. Adverse conditions can include crowding, exposure to hazards such as chemicals and uncomfortable temperatures.

Five Ways Employees Can Manage Workplace Stress

Stress in the workplace is expected and reasonable. However, if it is ongoing and excessive, it may become detrimental to physical, mental, and emotional health. Since people spend much of their lives at work, it’s important to consider strategies for managing stress in the workplace.

  1. Identify the stressor: You’re feeling all the symptoms of being overly stressed, but what’s the core cause? It could be your workload, a toxic relationship with a co-worker or maybe even desk equipment that isn’t ergonomically friendly. Before treating your stress, be sure to identify the root cause.

    Bonus: Can’t figure out what’s wrong? Take short walks throughout the day to clear your mind. This also works well when you’re stuck on a project. You might get back to your desk with new, ground-breaking ideas!

  2. Eat healthy foods: Believe it or not, diet impacts mental health. To make matters worse, eating well at work isn’t always the easiest. There are team outings to the not-so-healthy restaurant, the co-worker who brings baked goods from home and back-to-back meetings, which can sometimes have you missing meals altogether. Although you might be tired after working and commuting, meal-prepping in advance is a great way to avoid impromptu visits to a nearby fast-food chain. Try to avoid carb-heavy foods, which can contribute to a lack of energy. Be sure to snack throughout the day – a variety of nuts are delicious, filling and can offer added energy.

    Drink plenty of water! Although headaches are a sign of stress, they could be a sign that you are dehydrated. A common recommendation is to drink six or eight glasses of water a day.

  3. Be organized: We’ve all seen that desk in the office – full of scattered papers and old snack wrappers. Maybe we just described your desk. Although some might argue that they work more efficiently with this organized chaos, it’s not the majority. Organize papers into folders, keep your desk and surrounding area clear of garbage and clutter. The same goes for your laptop. Keep desktops clear and create folders for different subjects in your email client. A clean desk could equal a clear mind.
  4. Build work relationships: Nobody wants to feel alone at work. It causes stress and can negatively impact productivity. Do your best to eliminate tense work relationships. Work with co-workers to determine mutual stressors, and either tackle them as a team or bring it to your supervisor. At lunch, instead of sitting at your desk, scrolling endlessly through social media, be more social with your co-workers. Sit with them and try to connect on a personal level.
  5. Make yourself heard: Whether an open-door policy with management exists or not, if something is bothering you, speak up! What’s stressing you out at work might be out of your control. If you don’t tell someone who can make a difference, then your situation is unlikely to change on its own and may even get worse.

What Can Employers do to Create a Less Stressful Environment?

Although employees may take steps towards managing stress at work, employers have a part to play as well. So, how can managers help employees deal with stress? Let’s look at five top recommendations.

  1. Employee wellness: Consider hosting weekly wellness clinics. This can include Monday morning yoga or Friday afternoon massages.

    Bonus: Provide healthy snacks in your lunchroom, including decaf coffee and tea options.

  2. Create an open-door policy: Lack of communication and feeling left in the dark causes stress. Sometimes it’s not the work that’s stressing your employees, but rather uncertainty regarding the process, the end goal or the team they are working with. Ensure your employees know that their direct supervisor is available to handle any questions or concerns.

    Bonus: Avoid micro-managing employees. It often creates unnecessary stress and doesn’t result in better work. 

  3. Go for brighter spaces: When the sun is shining, it increases our body’s serotonin levels, improving mood and helping us feel calm and focused. So, consider brightening your office space to achieve similar results among employees. Ensure the blinds are up and bright tones are used throughout the space.
  4. Encourage working from home or hybrid schedules: Commuting to and from the office every day can add hours to an already long workday. Employees with small children may also need to make complicated arrangements when they can’t be home. Consider reducing this burden on your staff by allowing for flexible in-person schedules. 
  5. Schedule or encourage informal social events: Not every meeting needs to be formal and productive, right? Facilitate small or large group chats among your staff to better get to know each other outside of their roles.

There is no standard solution for tackling stress in the workplace. The process can be complex and it can take time. As an employee, start by identifying your stressor and finding ways you can mitigate it on a personal level. However, you shouldn’t be alone. Employers should proactively work to implement stress management programs in the workplace. Stress management is a team effort and employing some of the tips expressed here can have you on your way to a healthier relationship with your workplace.