"Instead of adding wellness programs or yoga classes, companies need to focus more on the management practices that lead to substantial health issues, such as layoffs, job insecurity, toxic cultures and long hours -- not only for their own bottom lines but so they don't offload those costs to broader society.” – Jena McGregor, The Washington Post
The Silent Killer
Your job might be killing you. Literally. Workplace stress is the 5th leading cause of death in America according to Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer. Number 5. What does workplace stress include? Painfully long hours. High job demands. No health insurance. You get the picture. If you’re stressed just thinking about stepping into the office, this one’s for you.
Come On, Get Happy
Research from Deloitte found a strong correlation between employee happiness and a strong company culture. 84% of those that reported happiness at work and 86% of those that reported feeling valued at work also reported having a distinct and well defined company culture. Coincidence? We think not.
Can you explain your company’s culture to a friend or family member? If the answer is no, there’s a strong possibility you’re also unhappy with your job currently. Go ahead, prove us wrong. Lack of company culture leads to stress, stress leads to disease, and disease leads to death. Harsh? Perhaps. Truthful? Pfeffer seems to think so.
An Integra survey published by the American Institute of Stress found that 65% of workers said that workplace stress had caused difficulties and more than 10% described these as having major effects.
So let’s say workplace stress is accounting for difficulties in your life. You’re stressed out coming home from work, what do you do? Well you probably take it out on some other aspect of your life. Maybe you snap at your spouse or kids. Maybe a friend gets caught in the crossfire. Perhaps it’s the person that cuts you off on the middle of the interstate. Whatever the case may be, we’ve all been there, done that.
“You Uncultured swine!”
Lack of company culture and workplace stress go hand in hand. Your company should want happy employees, as happy employees are productive employees, and productive employees increase their bottom line. To get “happy employees”, most companies rely on corny wellness programs or cute job perks. The problem is that a job that requires you to work 60 hour weeks is still a job that requires you to work 60 hour weeks, even with beer Fridays.
Research shows that what employees really want is respectful treatment of all employees at all levels, a strong company culture, and a workplace that values their time and energy spent. If you as an employee are being treated well by your employer, you’ll be happy with or without organic lunches and in-office yoga.
My Company Doesn’t Have A Strong Company Culture…
If your company doesn’t have a strong culture, it’s okay. Here’s what you can do:
Have a conversation with upper management. Ask them the hard questions.
“What is our value statement?”
“Why do we exist?”
“What’s our vision for the future?”
Asking these important questions should allow your employer to more clearly define what their mission is and why your company exists as a whole. It will also show you where your company is going and what the future looks like for your company.
Discuss problems with the current company culture. Perhaps one person is steering the company in their direction while others’ ideas aren’t being valued or are overlooked. Identify the issues and have a mature conversation with your superior about why you feel this kind of culture is stifling or unproductive.
MY Company has a strong culture, i’m still unhappy…
Well if you actually hate your job, we’ve got a whole story about quitting that you should give a read. If it’s workplace stress at a job you actually enjoy, here’s what you do:
Identify the root cause. Keep track of what your major stressors are at the office. In a journal record the specific situations coupled with your reactions. At the end of the day, look back at your reactions and write down how you could have reacted differently. Was this preventable? Could you have handled the situation better? Is there a way to prevent this from happening in the future? By tracking what your stressors are, you can more easily identify patterns. Try journaling for at least two weeks to see how much stress is actually caused by events that occurred and how much of it is fabricated in your mind.
Pump those endorphins. Walking meetings, cycling to work, a 5 minute HIIT workout on your lunch break – all great ways to get those endorphins flowing and your mind right. Never underestimate the power of exercise in combating stress.
Establish boundaries. Do you have an off switch or are you constantly on the clock? Do you separate work and play? Are there clear and concise times when work ceases and you find time to relax? Boundaries are important. Make sure that other people know them, respect them, and adhere to them.
Ask for help. It’s okay to not be okay. Talking to someone is always a viable solution, whether that’s a close confidant or a licensed professional. Never feel stigmatized by needing a helping hand every now and again.