Stress Case

Keeping Stress At Bay

Even if you do all this, your workers are still likely to feel some stress; that's just a fact of today's business environment. But helping employees develop stress-management skills will help them cope when busy times hit. "While you have to be committed to reducing stressors in the environment, employees need to develop skills so they don't experience so much wear and tear from the stressors you can't change," says Munz.

Stress-reduction techniques can be relatively simple. "I teach people to relax and count their own breaths as they breathe deeply, for instance," says Rabinowitz. "It takes only a few second, but it works." Master that technique, then teach it to employees for them to use when their stress levels jump off the meter.

Other proven techniques include going for a walk, engaging in some brisk exercise (such as doing 20 push-ups), meditating on your favorite vacation spot or counting down slowly from 100 to zero. "People can learn to relax," says Spector. "And every employee should know a few relaxation techniques they can depend on in tough moments."

A good idea is to post four or five stress-busting techniques where employees can see them, such as in the break room or kitchen. Ask them to add ideas they find useful--and encourage all employees to put stress-reduction techniques into practice whenever the need arises.

As in most workplace situations, communication is crucial to keeping stress in check. "If employees feel there are avenues [of communication], their stress goes down," says Venetta Campbell, a psychology professor at Mt. St. Mary's College in Los Angeles. "You can get good results just by encouraging employees to get together over a brown-bag lunch once a week to share concerns and to relate stress-management tools that work for them."

Whether it's encouraging workers to blow off steam with vigorous lunch-time walks or just holding a one-hour meeting to talk about stress and its solutions in your business, know that whatever you do to help your workers cope with stress, good things will result. "Just the fact that you acknowledge that stress is an issue and show a willingness to work on it reduces stress in the workplace," says Munz. "Take steps, and employees will appreciate it."

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This article was originally published in the November 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Stress Case.

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