Faced with increasing challenges, there are new shifts and changes in today’s corporate world. High levels of competition, new technological advances, demographic adjustments, political turbulence, volatility in financial markets and the consequences of a global pandemic all contribute to a radical growth in stress, propagating the requirement for new and innovative corporate solutions.
Why is it important to manage stress in companies? Stress creates extreme conditions, which in turn generates new stress, thereby initiating a vicious cycle and undermining the stability of all business processes. An external marketplace survey by Deloitte revealed that among 1,000 full-time professionals, 770 had experienced stress at their current job, of which 91% said that an unmanageable amount of stress negatively affected the quality of their work, and 70% felt that their employers are not doing enough to prevent the stress within the workplace environment or alleviate the burnout within their organization.
In the corporate world, effective stress management covers two levels: personal and organizational.
Stress Management At A Personal Level
On a personal level, stress management can be achieved by training staff in various anti-stress and relaxation programs. The purchase of expensive training programs is not necessary; with just a few hours of Internet research, a competent human resources leader or consultant can make a list of effective video tutorials that may be useful for employees.
Another way is to ensure a comfortable working environment, which is even more relevant for employees working from home. Any desirable working environment should include effective lighting, computer monitors, comfortable office chairs, etc. These are expenses that companies should absorb partially or fully.
Another often overlooked but beneficial option is the physical break, literally five minutes per hour of moving, squatting and jumping. To support physical activity outside of the work environment, employers can pay for staff memberships in gyms — monthly costs start at as little as $10 per month, which can be affordable even for small companies.
Finally, one can incorporate an individual approach whereby the tasks assigned to each employee are in alignment with the employees’ personal stress resilience. Some people adapt to high loads quite easily and quickly, while others cope better with small and short tasks.
Stress Management At An Organizational Level
On the organizational level, stress management addresses deeper psychological structures and can be developed through corporate rituals. Historically, rituals have been connected to certain meaningful life events like seasons, harvest, birth, initiation, etc., thereby helping to withstand droughts and diseases, to survive difficult days or to transition from one life phase to the other. The power of the “ritual” was in collective repetition, which transmitted group values and made each person feel part of their tribe. The ability to follow rituals was a symbolic guarantee of security and prosperity and even today still maintains this significance. In the corporate world, rituals perform much of the same function, strengthening a sense of belonging and safety.
The most effective and accessible ritual for today’s companies is weekly meetings. It is advisable to hold them either at the beginning or at the end of the week to talk about the work that has been completed and plans for the upcoming week. It’s an excellent opportunity to indirectly involve staff in common goals and values and expand their understanding of the functionality within an organization. The ritual of weekly meetings symbolizes a tribal gathering, whereby all family members huddled around a fire — united by a common territory, common language, common traditions and even a common enemy — and talked about how to survive. In this way, a weekly meeting is also an opportunity to discuss stressors and offer support.
Another form of rituals can be embodied in a wide range of non-tangible motivations: awards, gifts, titles, lists of the best, etc. The purpose of these rituals is to increase employee involvement and indirectly cultivate a certain behavior that fits into the framework of corporate values. Motivational rituals also include allowing the best employees to share their professional secrets with others as a way to recognize their contribution and talent. These kinds of rituals are very powerful given that they appeal to the archetype of a “hero” or a “warrior,” the one who is willing to challenge circumstances, step outside of their comfort zone and make a difference.
Corporate events as a ritual could also include celebrating personal and professional holidays, organizing sports competitions, attending conferences and so on. Such events contribute to team-building, dissolve the accumulation of problems in relationships and help to identify informal leaders. The main purpose of these rituals is to create an atmosphere where employees can expose a cheerful, more relaxed and less formal “other self” that is not typically visible or manifested in the workplace. Don’t overlook the importance of dancing at corporate events — in a psychological sense, it has a very strong influence on our subconscious and has roots that trace back to ancient ritual dancing. Traditionally, tribes used collective dancing to connect with spirits and initiate a mystical feeling of kinship.
As with ancient tribes, symbolically, each company should develop its own rituals that promulgate the corporate identity or the so-called face of the company. As with the chief of each “tribe,” each company leader determines what kind of company they wish to develop — faceless or unique with an inimitable set of rituals. Uniqueness is productive for two reasons: It maintains stability and enhances the sense of belonging, both of which mitigate stress levels and create the appropriate degree of employee tolerance.