When it comes to the stresses we face at work and in life, we are often reminded of the Nietzsche quote “that which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” However, when it becomes chronic, stress can lead to burnout and health conditions like anxiety, depression, heart disease, and other serious illnesses. (So, in effect, stress could *technically* kill you. ¯\_(**/)_/¯ )
Saskia van Manen
But a 2013 study showed that the negative effects of stress largely depend how you view the role of stress in your life. With a “glass half full” attitude, challenges, traumas, setbacks, pressure, deadlines, failures, the stresses of life and work become opportunities to learn and grow; with the “glass half empty” attitude, stress becomes debilitating.
In his seminal book, Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi points to how critical stress is in creating flow states—one needs just enough challenge to fully engage one’s skills. But when the challenge becomes too great for our skills, that is when we enter the territory of stress. In today’s always-on work environments, even the most talented employees can be outmatched. Over time, this stress can lead to demotivation, disengagement, and burnout.
To effectively cope with the toxic levels of stress we’re currently experiencing in the workplace, the key concept is resilience. Not simply grit or perseverance, at Wisdom Labs, we define “resilience” as the ability to be present with the difficulty or tragedy, to name it, and to learn from it—hopefully, coming out on the other side slightly wiser. Individuals don’t just survive the challenge they face, they learn and actually become more effective from the experience.
To explore the dynamics of resilience in the workplace, we at Wisdom Labs conducted a series of surveys, reaching 1800 employed people in the United States in late 2017. Some interesting initial findings include:
The major causes of stress come as no surprise—
- Overall, management expectations and behavior, overwork, little to no work/life balance, and lack of support from coworkers were key drivers of stress
- Over 20% of women surveyed identified “management expectations and/or behavior” as causing the most stress
- With men, over 16% said “overwork” caused the most stress.
And there was relative consistency in coping mechanisms (across gender, age, and geography):
- “Spending time with friends and loved ones” (44%) and “Watching TV/movies” (43.5%) were the preferred ways of dealing with stress.
- About 26% of respondents, respectively, use food/ alcohol or exercise to deal with stress
- Only about 20% of respondents use mindfulness or meditation techniques to help manage stress.
When asked what would be most helpful in reducing stress in the workplace, over 32% of respondents chose “Specific training for managers/leaders to reduce stress in the workplace.”
And some good news:
- Nearly 60% say it is unlikely they would seek out a new job in the next six months, with only about 25% of respondents saying it is likely they would be out looking for new work in the same time period.
This work only scratches the surface of the conversation about stress and resilience in workplace—and points to an interesting solution area: specific manager training.
Our Wiser Workplace Ambassador Program offers a unique opportunity for managers to lead a different type of conversation about stress and resilience at work—and create meaningful change. Previously only available at the enterprise level, the robust digital and virtual support of this program is now available to culture champions at organizations of all sizes.
To learn more, click here.
NOTE: Wisdom Labs Pollfish survey carried out October 2017