World Wellbeing Week - Stress

Now in its second year, World WellBeing Week provides the opportunity to promote an overall awareness for the wide-ranging aspects of wellbeing and if we break it down, it can be attributed to three key elements of wellness; financial, physical and mental.

Our Vibe employee engagement platform offers you a deeper understanding of your people and your environment enabling you to make informed decisions that will positively impact on employee wellbeing, team performance and business growth.

Vibe uses a smart algorithm by comparing and contrasting subconscious thoughts and feelings (using images) with traditional qualitative and quantitative data. This quantifies the four most influential emotional components of well being at work which are Stress, Trust, Empowerment and Passion. We call these our STEP measures as they provide a methodical flow to how relationships at work create either distress or eustress.

Look out over the next four days we will be publishing more content about how to harness eustress and human energy more effectively.

 

Today we are talking about stress, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Employers have a fundamental duty of care for the physical and mental health and well-being of their workers. However, our research shows that only around half of organisations have employee well-being on their senior leaders’ agendas.

The latest official data shows that almost 27 million working days were lost to work-related ill health in 2018, with 1.4 million people suffering from a work-related illness. CIPD research shows that the average level of employee absence is 5.9 days per employee per year. Although this figure has been falling over the last decade, it does, however, mask the fact that most people continue to work when unwell, while many employees even use holiday or sick leave to work.

Chances are if you’re a leader or manager of a small team, its likely you will have lost close to a months’ worth of productivity in the past year due to work-related illness and absence. If you’re a target or KPI driven business, then imagine wiping out a whole month of revenue due to illnesses? In line with the CiPD’s wider evidence, the research shows that the main risks to employee health are now psychological, with mental ill-health and stress being the top two causes of long-term absences.

A focus on employee health and well-being should be a core element of any HR strategy, and central to the way an organisation operates and fulfils its mission. It should not simply consist of one-off initiatives. As well as benefiting employees, an integrated approach to well-being can increase employee engagement, fostering a joint commitment to organisational success.

(source CiPD)

 

Stress: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The term “stress”, as it is currently used was coined by Hans Selye MD, PhD (1907 - 1982), in 1936, who defined it as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change”.

Hans, the “Father of Stress”, was a Hungarian endocrinologist and the first to give a scientific explanation for biological “stress”. He actually borrowed the term “stress” from physics to describe an organism's physiological response to perceived stressful events in the environment.

 

The Bad Stress

So what impact does the bad stress have on us? Firstly, people are less productive at low and high levels of stress arousal. At low levels, people tend to feel less motivated and more lazy and complacent. At high stress, people tend to feel impaired due to high levels of anxiety. This type of stress is called distress and is known as the bad stress, the one that through long periods of time, can cause severe illness. Distress is particularly harmful because is continually activating our “fight or flight” autonomous response. For example, distress increases blood pressure, creates shallow breathing, increases cholesterol and fatty acids in the blood; increasing inflammation and increasing stomach acids.

 

The Ugly Side of Stress

So, when does stress become ugly? Leaders who are stressed typically display negative behaviours towards their teams and peers. It’s difficult to be an inclusive and effective communicator when you’re in a stressed-out state. Most leaders behave better when they are calm and are able to think things through.

Some signs that your stressed and being an ugly leader:

·      Not listening or ignoring

·      Raised voice or ‘barking orders’

·      Autocratic – “my way or the high way”

·      Last-minute pressures

·      Confusing communication

 

The Good Stress

When arousal increases, performance tends to get better. This explains why for some of us, our most productive days are those when the clock is ticking for you to wrap up a big project.

Moderate levels of stress are called eustress. This type of stress is considered healthy stress and refers to the presence of positive psychological states. Individuals experiencing eustress describes the experience as being totally focused in a mindful state of challenge, a healthy state of aroused attention on the task, exhilaration, and being fully present. Positive levels of stress increase levels of commitment, mental health, physical health, self-confidence.

 

Eustress, or positive stress, has the following characteristics:

·      Motivates and focuses energy.

·      Is short-term.

·      Is perceived as within our coping abilities.

·      Feels exciting.

·      Improves performance

There is one very simple way to improve your own stress and the stress of those around you… Be Kind. Kindness not only reduces stress and improves emotional and physical wellbeing, but also kind people feel happier. Research shows that being kind to other people reduces stress, improves mood, self-esteem and happiness. Human connection and interpersonal relationships are crucial for both mental and physical health. Kindness at work can assume many shapes. Among others, it can come in a form of mentoring, knowledge sharing, brokering introductions and compassion.

 

Stress at Work - Be Kind

 

Our Vibe employee engagement platform offers you a deeper understanding of your people, your environment and enables you to make informed decisions that will positively impact on employee wellbeing, performance and business growth. Vibe uses a smart algorithm by comparing and contrasting subconscious thoughts and feelings (using images) with traditional qualitative and quantitative data.

This quantifies the four most influential emotional components of well-being which are Stress, Trust, Empowerment and Passion. We call these our STEP measures as there is a methodical flow to how relationships at work create either distress or eustress. By understanding and measuring the STEP emotions you can start to optimise the eustress or positive energy of your workforce which is not only the right thing to do but also directly correlates to organisational success.

A deeper analysis into our global client base in 2018/19 with over 11,500 responses tells us these three top themes drive high levels of stress…

1.    Line manager – Direct correlation between not motivating/inspiring and making priories clear with team members and frustration and disengagement.

2.    Change – the more significant or more intense the change, the higher the distress, frustration and disengagement

3.    Feedback – direct correlation between high levels of distress and low levels of regular and helpful feedback.

 

Quick wins:

  1. Realigning and unifying line manager feedback and support, encouraging more structured and meaningful one on ones
  2. Reduce the frequency and simplify group messaging and communication
  3. Realigning, unifying and communicating expectations and values

Vibe also has personalised feedback reports so individual colleagues can compare and contrast their results to their department and overall business. This helps to build context and self-awareness, motivating them to take control of their self-development plan and to improve the relationships they have with their line manager – arguably the most important one in any business. 

 

Vibe Employee Engagement Personal Report

 

These are just some of the human indexes within the Vibe diagnostics to understand and manage the relationships you have at work better. If you would like to find out more about how we can help you understand stress in your workplace, please visit our website for more information or contact us at [email protected]

 

Bibliography

1. McEwen, Bruce S. (2000). The neurobiology of stress: from serendipity to clinical relevance. Brain Research

2. Gino, Francesca (2016). When Stress Helps You Get More Done. Harvard Business Review

3. Kholl, Alan (2017). 25 Ways To Cut Employee Stress And Boost Productivity. Forbes

4. Hargrove, Matthew B.; Nelson, Debra L.; Cooper, Cary L. (2013). Generating eustress by challenging employees: Helping people savour their work. Organizational Dynamics

5. https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/culture/well-being/health-agenda-report

 

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