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How to Tackle Workplace Stress and Anxiety Around 300 million people globally suffer from workplace related depression and 260 million suffer from anxiety disorders

By Dr. Prakriti Poddar

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Growing anxiety at workplace is the reality of modern day jobs, which despite being armed with technology and enhanced with luxuries have been ignoring mental health. Lack of fostering and an encouraging environment is taking a toll on the mental well-being of employees which is also manifesting in physical ill-health.

As captured appropriately by the World Health Organization, workplace stress is "the response people may have when presented with work demands and pressures that are not matched to their knowledge and abilities and which challenge their ability to cope."

Around 300 million people globally suffer from workplace related depression and 260 million suffer from anxiety disorders. Some live with both conditions. Another report suggest around 50 percent employees with depression are untreated.

Demanding pace of work, fewer resources, cost-cutting, and constant pressures of increasing productivity are some of the factors that become the root cause of workplace stress or anxiety.

These along with behavioural challenges of peers and seniors, growing competitiveness, long and odd working hours, as well as fear of embarrassment, humiliation, rebuke, and failure are some of the other major factors that affect mental health badly.

Increase exercise and physical activity- This remains one important factor which we are compromising heavily due to our sedentary work life. Many studies have shown that exercise and engaging in a physical activity like a sport increases happy hormones such as dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins, while decreasing stress hormone cortical. It also helps push more oxygen in the circulation system.

Sleep and meditation- It is estimated that around 60 percent to 80 percent of accidents on the job happen due to stress related distraction and sleepiness. Despite our hectic lifestyle, it is essential to give the body and mind some rest, which helps one rejuvenate back into action. Around six to eight hours of sleep is advised, and maintaining sleep hygiene is important. Meditation helps in easing the mind and is another resting tool. Factoring in time for meditation is beneficial in the long run.

Reduce screen time and engagement with technology- We are hooked to a screen at most times in the 21st century. Although modern day work life mandates engaging with technology, one should try and reduce engaging with tech post work. Finding avenues of entertainment by listening to music, playing a game, pursuing a hobby etc, are better ways to unwind.

Share, care, and speak-up. It is important to have a positive and fostering behaviour with peers and seniors at workplace as it is important to listen. Avoid giving unsolicited advice. Sharing your frustration and challenges with a trusted colleague helps in easing out. Also, speak-up for better workplace practices with your employer and suggest solutions of managing work. Spread awareness about rights and negotiate workspace which ensures these rights are respected.

Counselling- Professional counselling via an organizational and occupational psychiatrist can play a big role in reducing workplace stress and anxiety and fostering healthy workplace environment. The discussions can help find solutions to work management challenges as well as help one counter individual problems, which affect productivity or efficiency of the employees. Counselling helps in reducing short-term absence, improves workplace morale, helps the organization by aiding employee retention, helps understand and address the pain areas of the employees.

Organizational Human Resource (HR) policy: Having a strong HR policy that fosters a healthy workplace environment and ensures zero tolerance towards gender, class, religion, or caste discrimination is important. Training the HR resources to manage such issues with due sensitivity and appropriate measured action is also essential. HR can also be instrumental in ensuring implementation of policies that promotes flexibility and work-life balance.

    Taking care of workplace anxiety is not one person's job. Some effort has to be made at all levels and by everyone concerned. In a country where an estimated 66 percent CEOs are stressed and 11 percent find the challenges at hand too much to handle, there is definite need for a revamped and more focused mental health policy program at our workplaces.

    Dr. Prakriti Poddar

    Director, Poddar Wellness Ltd., and Managing Trustee of the Poddar Foundation


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