When it comes to work and workplace health, one of the biggest challenges is stress management. Chronic stress is prevalent and a major impact on our productivity. Here is an easy way to test this. Answer these two questions:
- How many days during the past 30 days was your PHYSICAL HEALTH not good (due to physical illness and injury)?
- For how many days during the past 30 days was your MENTAL HEALTH not good (due to stress, depression, and problems with emotions)?
Both of these questions are pulled from Harvard’s Health and Human Performance Index, which measures organizational wellbeing. If you are like most who answered these questions, you are 2 to 3 times more likely to suffer from stress and severe anxiety than physical issues. Chronic stress affects all of us at one time or another. The good news is there are lots of tools and strategies at our disposal today to help us reduce it, refocus, and stay on track at work.
I don’t have a lot of time. How can I manage stress at work?
According to a recent study by the National Business Group on Health and Fidelity Investments, 22% of companies in 2016 have mindfulness training programs already in place, and another 21% are considering adding some in 2017. If your organization hasn’t gotten the memo, there are plenty of “mindful apps” I highly recommend checking out.
Buddhify allows you to select the activity you are engaged in – walking, waking up, taking a work break, etc. – and pick from a selection of really short (like 5-15 minute) meditations. I especially like British accents of the voices that “talk you off your ledge” and give you a moment of calm.
Headspace, started by an Australian and former Buddhist monk, is for those of you who are new to mindful meditation, but want to start doing so regularly. The tools is effective and the exercises fairly short.
Brain.FM, aka “music for the brain,” is one of my favorite apps to help me fall asleep at night. The app also has soundtracks to help you focus, relax, meditate and nap. It was recommended to me by someone who really geeks out on the neuroscience behind tools like this.
H*nest Meditation. If you’ve had enough of all of this meditation hype and just want a good laugh, this one is for you. Probably best not to listen to this “out in the open” at work.
How can I change my work environment to reduce stress?
I’ve started a collection of some of the more interesting solutions out there. Many of them support places to meditate and reflect and bring nature into the work environment. Here are a few favorites:
This image is an area in Toronto’s PATH underground shopping area. It’s a backlit screen with a forest image. Great idea when no natural light is available!
This is a photo of a mediation booth at the Headspace headquarters office. For more photos and the back story, check out Work Design Magazine.
The next image is a BuddhaBooth, new on the market and comes in many shapes and colors. This is a nice furniture solution if you’re on a budget, or short on space.
Next time you are in Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, check out their Airport Park, complete with logs, beanbags and the sound of chirping birds, which they pipe in. Airport developers and designers, take note!
If you know of more tools or methods that help with stress management in the workplace, please post them here!
Leigh Stringer is a workplace strategy expert and researcher. She works for EYP, an architecture, engineering and building technology firm and is the author of The Healthy Workplace: How to Improve the Well-Being of Your Employees—and Boost Your Company’s Bottom Line.