Workplace stress or burnout has now been classed as a disease by the World Health Organisation and is a recognised world-wide issue.
Sadly, the current approach shows no signs of reducing the instances of workplace stress and I feel that we need to tackle this epidemic from a different angle.
Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”, and this is what I feel we are doing with workplace stress.
We create environments that cause workplace stress, wait until people become ill, and then treat the outcome.
This is morally, socially and financially the wrong approach.
It fails the people who are stressed, it fails the company or organisation, and it fails society as a whole.
All this does is create a ready-made conveyor belt of people who have become ill and need cured.
The global wellness market is estimated to reach $4.75 trillion in 2019, and if we continue on our current path, we will keep producing stressed-out individuals who need cured.
We need to break the cycle.
I worked as a firefighter for thirty years and have been involved in numerous incidents where lives and property have been saved and people have been rescued from severe injury or death.
I have also been involved in prevention strategies that are designed to stop these emergencies happening in the first place. Preventing the situation arising is morally and financially the best approach as prevention is much better than cure.
As you could imagine, dealing with life and death emergencies can be quite stressful. As an officer, I trained people how to make risk critical choices at national level, and taught signs, symptoms and coping strategies for stress, as well as leadership, management, situational awareness and communications.
It saddens me to say that the most stress I have ever encountered in the fire service was not caused by an emergency situation; it was caused by a non-emergency situation. This caused me to have a long period of time off due to workplace stress.
What is even worse is that it could have been avoided.
This experience of workplace stress at first hand has helped me to use my wealth of knowledge in this field to design this new approach.
This approach considers the neuroscience and the psychology, but most importantly, it focuses on practical solutions to the issue.
Practical people need practical solutions to practical problems, and I feel this approach provides that.
A NEW APPROACH
As said previously, I strongly believe that prevention is better than cure, and this is no different in the case of workplace stress.
My approach is to eliminate the known stressors at source as opposed to wating to people become ill and then trying to cure them.
I like the stress bucket analogy below, but one of the problems with this is that we are also putting known stressors into the bucket.
If we eliminated these known stressors at source, two things would happen.
- The bucket has less chance of overflowing
- There is less need for coping strategies
Poor communications are a huge cause of stress in the workplace. Getting the right information to the right people at the right time is key. I find the best approach to improve this is to use practical examples of good, and bad communications that people can relate to within their role.
Communication can easily be improved, and this not only reduces workplace stress, it also increases morale and productivity.
People who consistently make poor choices in the workplace are a constant source of stress.
I have devised a process to help people make better choices and this is based on my experience of teaching the topic in an emergency situation and adapting it to be used in all circumstances.
It gives people a template when making choices and allows the choice to be scrutinised and validated.
Once people know the background to the process, they can easily use it make better choices and create better outcomes. This Is a win-win for the individual and the company.
- Poor Situational awareness
This is about people having an awareness of how their actions and inactions can affect their environment, and the people around them. Some people seem totally oblivious to the outcome of what they say or what they do. People who have good situational awareness tend to create much less stress within the workplace and this is a skill that can easily be taught.
Workplace stress is a global issue and can have horrendous consequences for people who suffer from it. This unique approach helps eliminate the known stressors at source and demonstrates a commitment from employers that they are serious about the wellbeing of their employees, who should always be the companies most important asset.