5 Practical Tips to Lower Workplace Stress
by Rick Chisholm
While there are many pros of running a business, the stress that comes along with it should not be set aside from the equation.
While no one is safe from the threat of occasional stress, entrepreneurs have a specific tendency to fall into this trap.
Stress and anxiety can be defined in various ways, but the truth is, they are nothing less than monsters under your bed depriving you of your sleep. Many startup owners have fallen prey to these hideous monsters at some stage in their life.
Moreover, both anxiety and stress tend to sabotage your confidence and well-being, giving rise to feelings of inability, or potential failure. Many startup owners start to panic their decision making at this point, acting reactively and on the fly rather than longer term.
I encourage the participants in my startup programs to think about stress and anxiety – not just in their staff, but in ALL their key stakeholders.
So startup founders should also think also about how you might possibly be stressing out your firm’s … employees, customers, suppliers, etc.
Human beings can become extremely stressed from an almost infinite range of causes or triggers, and they can exhibit their stress in a huge range of often very unique and personal ways.
One size “stress analysis” does not fit all – not everybody walks around with steam literally coming out their ears when they are angry!
Always Remember: This Shall Pass!
I know, The end of the year is fast approaching. Reports are piling up. Employee appraisals barely started. You know what’s the one good thing about all these problems? This shall pass.
Every situation, every stakeholder issue, every phone call you would rather not make. No matter how rough the storm is, it is bound to pass.
I always encourage new startup founders before they even decide on a logo, to think about having a phrase like this handy that you can store in your head, and whip out Zen like as necessary to defuse any and stress situations.
The idea is the phrase gives your mind long enough pause that decision making starts to occur OUTSIDE the panic window. If you find your temperature rising, if you’re getting inclined to shout at an employee, make a rash decision, not take the time to consider all your strategic options, always remember “This shall pass” before you act.
Outsource & Delegate
One mistake I often see startup owners make is the failure to outsource or adequately delegate when they do not have the requisite skills themselves.
But as your business grows, the day to day responsibilities grow exponentially. The point usually arrives very early in most startups’ developments
If you cannot afford to hire someone full time, you can bring a part
time worker or freelancer on boards to help with specific responsibilities, and this can often prove very cost effective.
Stress can cost your business several times over – the remedy costs of bad, rushed decisions can often be enormous, and it leads to lost productivity, so I always encourage to think about what their true opportunity cost are here if they want to prove effective startup owners.
Set Goals and Achieve Them
In most cases, anxiety springs out when you set out to achieve a lot – all at once.
In my courses, I recommend business owners follow the the SMART method. SMART means setting goals for your business and your stakeholders that should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Specific.
But make sure you think also about how you can structure in rewarding yourself and your team whenever you achieve your goals.
The reward will not only motivate you to do bigger and better things, but releasing us from our “routine” to have a formal “celebration” like this, really helps other stakeholders see that they are a valuable part of a high performing larger entity.
I encourage all my students to think about setting out a formal policy for stakeholder monitoring and progress against goals and any motivational issues.
So, annually, for staff the model his is obviously having a formal annual staff review policy that sets concrete and SMART goals. The more such a system can be linked to remuneration, it can provide a major incentive to change or encourage employee behaviours.
Master the Art of Self Control
The stress of an anxiety-inducing situation, triggers physiological changes in our nervous systems. Our heart rate speeds up, we start breathing faster, and experience a rush of adrenaline.
These physiological changes in the body induce in us an instinctive “fight or flight” response. We leap to react, we raise our voices.
To handle such situation, and being a black belt myself, I teach my students to master the art of self control. Control over the physiological changes taking place in the body, granting the ability to relax and decide with a clear mind.
Self pep-talk: I teach my students to be their own coach, in our sessions, we like to have a short “self pep-talk” session where start up earners learn how to visualise any situation positively without sounding like inauthentic sales copy.
Diaphragmatic Breathing: The best way to tackle immediate stress is to reduce the heartbeat, but other than Spiderman, nobody has this ability. But deep breathing, not from the barrel of the chest, but from the diaphragm at the base of the lungs is one of the most immediate and effective stress release methods available.
Seek Professional Help
Stress and anxiety are MEDICAL conditions. We’ve talked about some techniques here for dealing with moderate to low level stress. But the mental health of startup owners is just appalling, no matter which stats you look at.
It’s important to state that stress gets the better of the best of us at times. At times, when that stress feels like it may be seriously affecting your mental health, you should always seek professional medical advice, and quickly. Not just for your own sake, but for the sake of your business.
But there should be no shame or stigma from saying you are experiencing a medical condition that every business owner feels at one time or another.
Stress comes with the startup territory, and not having a plan for managing it is having a plan to fail.