Originally published in ‘Small Business Connect‘ newspaper, March 2014 edition, page 8.

More great resources to help relieve stress at work, improve communication & build team spirit!

More great resources to relieve stress at work!

Want to improve your wellbeing, improve communication & create team spirit?

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stress at workI am sure you’ve heard these words from well-meaning friends and family members, regardless of whether you’re an employee or business owner… “Man, you look like you need a holiday!” or “Are you working late AGAIN?!”

More and more people are experiencing burnout and other stress-related problems. This has a direct impact on the bottom line. When you are tired, anxious, nervous, unhappy or experiencing any other emotionally and mentally draining feelings, you are statistically far more likely to cause an accident, argue and cause countless other problems. In fact, under extreme stress, you can behave as if you are highly intoxicated.

There’s no doubt that maintaining and encouraging a stress-free work environment should be an important priority of any organisation: you need to be consistently considering the emotional well-being of every employee, as well as your own. It is important to remember that, although the profitability of your business requires that everyone maintains high productivity, a business is not like a machine. You cannot simply use the parts until they break and then replace them! When working late into the night, you wake up moody the next day, and the quality of your work (both during the day and from the night before) is jeopardised.

For your business to remain sustainable and profitable, you need to consider people’s sense of well-being, comfort and desire to do work. Certainly, working under pressure can produce outstanding results, since the last-minute rush can be a good motivator. However, if high stress and exhaustion levels are the norm, you will experience work dissatisfaction, and people will not want to work there for much longer!

Here is the good news…

If we consider how our brains and bodies are designed to work, the answers are simple. We need to consider that the purpose of our work is not simply the finances we need to live. Rather, it’s to provide for a healthy and happy lifestyle. Therefore, when we do experience stress, we need to listen to the advice of our friends and family members and take that break!

There is now considerable peer-reviewed evidence that proves that when people spend part of their days focused on play, relaxation and recreation, they are more likely to learn new skills, form strong relationships, and improve their overall health. People perform optimally when they divide their day into thirds: eight hours for sleep, eight hours of work and eight hours of play and relaxation.

Now think about your day – how long do you spend commuting? Or preparing for work? Do you get home so tired that you only put your feet up for an hour before falling asleep?

Successful business leaders understand that they are making a good and responsible decision when they encourage play and fun in the workplace. Activities that encourage learning, physical movement, communication and laughter should be organised regularly enough so that employees reap the maximum emotional and physical benefits, without wasting work hours.

On the books, it may be difficult to measure the financial cost of giving people the time to play. However, companies worldwide can report that this kind of investment in staff wellbeing almost always provides a high return on investment in the long run. Companies that incorporate a culture of play into everyday activities are more innovative, experience lower staff turnover, and have employees with a higher quality of life.

Here are five ways to ease the stress of running your business:

1. Get up and play
Gathering a group of employees to play games, is certain to encourage staff to relax and get to know one another better. It can be said that we learn more about a person in an hour of play than we can in a whole year of work! If feasible, team sports can be facilitated. The focus should be on play and recreation instead of work-related issues.

2. Watch funny videos
Open a few funny YouTube videos, gather together and laugh as a group! Group laughter is one of the best ways to improve breathing, resulting in more oxygen to the brain, as well as to regulate hormone levels and activate creative thought. Even taking a 15-minute break is often enough to help motivate you!

3. Drink water and walk
By increasing your intake of water, oxygen and light, you’ll be helping your body recover from high levels of adrenalin and physical discomfort. If you are consistently in the same posture, this activity is of particular benefit, because long periods of sitting is known to be detrimental to productivity. It’s advisable to make this a scheduled activity: set an alarm for every 90 minutes to remind you and your colleagues to get up for a comfort break.

4. Take a power nap
It has become increasingly common to schedule some “me time” in the middle of the day. Reportedly, 20 minutes’ rest a day leaves you revitalised and reinvigorated. Simply find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed, put your phone on silent, find a relaxing position and close your eyes. While it’s not necessary to fall asleep, try to not think about any pressing matters. Allowing your body to relax lowers stress levels, improves your problem-solving abilities, and promotes sleep.

5. Call family or friends
A short, positive conversation with your partner, friend or family member can put your day into perspective. Think about the conversation’s purpose before you initiate it: should it result in an argument, this would be counter- productive. Focus on letting the other person know that you appreciate and love them: this simple act will make you both feel good! Take a moment to pick up your cellphone, walk outside and call someone. You’ll be ready to work on your next challenge.