Monthly Archives: August 2016

Some Simple Scientific Ways to Be Less Stressed at Work

Feeling stressed and overwhelmed at your job? Science can help.

It’s well-known that things like exercising regularly and getting enough sleep are important for both your physical and mental health and can have a huge impact on your stress levels as a result. But when the stress of the office has got you down, you can’t always drop everything to take a nap or hit the gym. Luckily, just a few small changes to your daily routine can take your stress level down a few notches.

These five scientifically proven tips will have you feeling more relaxed and ready to take on the work week.

1. Go green.

Being stuck in a cubicle or office with fluorescent lighting all day isn’t the most relaxing or inspiring environment. When you’re stuck in a small workspace and the work keeps piling on, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and feel stressed. But studies show that adding plants to your workspace can do more than just liven up your desk — it can help you stay calm and collected, too.

A Washington State University study found that, by adding plants to a windowless work place (in this case, a college computer lab) workers were less stressed, more productive and felt more attentive.

Researchers measured participants’ blood pressure, emotions and reaction time to a computer task both in the presence and absence of plants. When plants were added to the environment, participants experienced a 12 percent quicker reaction time as well as lower systolic blood pressure readings, according to the study.

2. Try aromatherapy.

Aromatherapy is a holistic therapy technique that uses natural essential oils to improve physical and mental health. Essential oils can be used for many different reasons and in many ways (massage, topical application for healing, inhaling, etc.) but lavender and rosemary oils in particular have both been shown to have a positive effect on stress.

A study in the journal Holistic Nursing Practice found that smelling lavender and rosemary essential oils reduced test-taking stress in a group of graduate nursing students. This was “evidenced by lower scores on test-anxiety measures, personal statements and pulse rates,” according to the research.

Another study in the journal Psychiatry Research found that when sniffed for five minutes, both rosemary oil and lavender oil decreased levels of cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone,” in participants.

So how can you take advantage of this research? Keep small vials of lavender and rosemary oils in your desk, and when you start feeling overwhelmed, take a break to breathe deep and enjoy the scent. You can also try burning candles made with these essential oils to de-stress at home.

3. Chew gum.

Chewing gum isn’t just a great trick for avoiding that ear-popping sensation you experience on a flight — it’s actually an effective way to relieve stress, too, according to research from the Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia.

Researchers studied 40 subjects during performance on a multi-tasking, stress-inducing platform called DISS (Defined Intensity Stressor Simulation) while chewing and not chewing gum. Anxiety, stress and alertness levels were measured before and after the activity. When chewing gum, participants reported lower levels of anxiety, with an almost 17 percent decrease during mild stress, and 10 percent during moderate stress. They also experienced an improvement in alertness and performance, according to the study.

Most important, however, measurements of the subjects’ cortisol levels showed that those who chewed gum during the activity also experienced lower stress. During mild stress simulation, levels were 16 percent less than those of participants who did not chew gum, and 12 percent less during moderate stress.

4. Take a walk.

So, maybe you can’t hit the gym for a vigorous workout when your midday workload has you feeling extra stressed, but you can take a break to go for a quick walk. Not only is being sedentary all day bad for your physical health, it’s not good for your mental health, either. Taking a midday stroll could is a great way to stay more active and reduce stress, too.

According to a study from the Psychology and Speech Pathology School at Curtin University in Australia, taking lunchtime walk breaks can help employees feel less stressed in the afternoon, TIME reported. Researchers studied 75 university administrative staff members over a 10-week period and found that subjects felt more relaxed, more enthusiastic and less nervous on days they took lunchtime walks as opposed to those when they did not.

So whether you go for a walk with your work friends or you take a solo stroll, a few minutes of walking can really boost your mood and help you de-stress at work.

5. Schedule time for emails.

With dozens (maybe even hundreds) of emails popping up in your inbox all day long, stress is practically inevitable. But research shows that setting aside specific times for checking your email — as opposed to checking them as they come in — can lead to lower stress.

A study from the University of British Columbia found that when subjects were limited to checking their email three times a day, they experienced significantly lower daily stress than they did when they could check their email an unlimited number of times.

The researchers explained that “limiting the number of times people checked their email per day lessened tension during a particularly important activity and lowered overall day-to-day stress,” New York Magazine reported.

Now you have an excuse for being a little more laid back when it comes to responding to all those pesky emails — it’s better for your health!

Ask This Questions Before Work from Home

Whether it’s a few days a month or a few days a week, the ability to work from home is becoming an increasingly common workplace perk.

According to a recent survey by WorldatWork and FlexJobs, 80 percent of today’s companies offer flexible work arrangements for their employees, including the option to occasionally telework. FlexJobs also found that 76 percent of people said their home, not the office, is their preferred place to work when they need to get important things done.

Although many of these programs are discretionary and on an ad-hoc basis, nearly half of employers who allow remote work said telecommuters are just as productive as in-office employees. But is a remote work arrangement the right one for you?

Questions to ask yourself
Employees thinking about working from home need to consider all of the factors that come with working remotely. Jane Sunley, CEO of employee-engagement company Purple Cubed and author of “It’s Never OK to Kiss the Interviewer” (LID Publishing, 2014), advised potential telecommuters to ask themselves the following questions before changing their work structures:

Am I happy spending long periods of time on my own?
Am I self-disciplined and self-motivated?
Am I confident working without supervision?
Am I comfortable communicating with my colleagues via email, chat, videoconference, etc. instead of face to face?
Do I have a quiet, distraction-free area at home in which to focus on my work?
Will telecommuting help me achieve the work-life balance I want?
If the answer is “yes” to all of these, telecommuting could be the right choice for you.

Consider your personality
Scott Boyar, an associate professor in the Department of Management, Information Systems and Quantitative Methods at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said that whether an employee is successful working from home depends on the person, the job and the training the organization provides for the individual to do that role remotely.

“An organization has a lot of responsibility when letting workers go virtual, but the employee carries a lot of it too,” Boyar said.

Some professionals may not have the personality suited for remotely working a few times a week. The best way to determine if you’re ready is to do a real audit of your abilities and skills, said Sara Sutton Fell, CEO and founder of FlexJobs.

“I recommend talking with other people who work from home regularly, to find out their perspective on what it’s really like and what you can expect,” said Sutton Fell. “Whether you know people in real life, search online for people’s stories, or ask questions on sites like LinkedIn or Quora to gather people’s opinions, try to get a good sense of what it’s really like to work from home, and whether you’re ready for it.”

Asking your boss
If you’ve decided you’re well-suited for remote work, how do you bring it up to your boss?

“The best time to [discuss working from home] is after you’ve thought your options through,” Sutton Fell said. “You should be ready to discuss how often you want to work from home [and] how you think it will benefit your job, team and company.”

Sunley noted that it’s easy for telecommuters to forget about taking breaks, which can decrease productivity over time. Remote employees need to be willing and able to structure their days to include those breaks, but also set boundaries with friends and families to maintain good work habits.

“You may now appear more available to not realize the demands that working from home requires,” Sunley told Business News Daily.

If your employer isn’t on board with full-time remote work, Boyar noted that an ideal situation for most employees may involve a combination of working in the office and at home throughout the week.

“There are many benefits to working from both the home and the office,” Sutton Fell added. “In some ways, it gives you the best of both worlds, because at home, you get a quiet space that you can control to help you focus and dig deeply into projects and important work.”

Tips to Stay Focused When You’re Working from Home

images-24Working from home can be wonderful: You avoid traffic, crowded trains and noisy co-workers, and you’re within your comfort zone. But it can also have a downside: Sometimes, you can get unbelievably distracted.

Between your professional duties and the responsibilities you have at home, working from your house can mix up your focus and take away from the work that really matters.

“Working from home can open up a lot of opportunities to do anything but work,” said Gerald D. Vinci, owner of Vinci Digital Marketing. “A pile of dishes in the sink or laundry in the hamper might be calling your name, but too often, these distractions wind up greatly impacting productivity.”

To help you avoid distractions and keep you on track, here are six strategies to use when you’re working from home. [See Related Story: Ready to Work from Home? Ask Yourself These 6 Questions]

Have a designated workspace
A dedicated space, whether a home office or a dedicated corner of the bedroom, is the key to staying successful and productive. You still need to feel that you have, in some way, “gone to work,” said Bill Conlon, corporate communications manager at business communications company Polycom.

Be technologically equipped
Beyond a reliable and speedy Wi-Fi connection, you’ll want strong collaboration tools that will let you hear, see and share effectively. Conlon noted that videoconferencing and content-sharing technologies are critical to being productive.

Stay connected with your co-workers
When employees work from home, the biggest thing they miss is the conversation and commentary that occur after the meeting, Conlon said. Make sure to use your cellphone, instant messaging or audio or video calls to check in. To avoid being forgotten by not being “seen,” consistently communicate about progress, ideas, insights and what you’re thinking — but make sure it’s relevant, he said.

Commit to work tasks during your working hours
For some people, keeping focused on their job while working remotely can be difficult, especially at first. When you’re on the clock, ignore the laundry, yard work, dish washing or cleaning. Conlon reminded telecommuters that this is another reason why having a dedicated workspace is so important.

Remember to move
It’s easy to stay glued to your desk or couch all day if you work from home, and that’s not good for your health or your mental acuity. Make sure you get up regularly, stretch your legs and walk around, Conlon said.

Working from home doesn’t need to literally mean “from home,” either. Getting face time with clients at a coffee shop, working in a Wi-Fi-capable location or changing scenery are ways to remain productive while moving around.

“I find myself running out to meet with clients or attending networking events on a weekly basis,” Vinci said. “By establishing a routine to dress and look the part, I can easily come and go throughout the day without stressing about getting ready for a last-minute meeting.”

Don’t work 24/7
Drawing a line of when work begins and ends is crucial as well. After work, it’s important to keep your home office door closed, as it’s easy to walk back in at midnight to check emails, Conlon said.

“Working from home could very well become a 24-hour-a-day job if you let it,” Vinci added. “Set office hours, and stick to them.”

How Longer Hours Won’t Make You More Productive

Working long hours does not necessarily equate to increased productivity, found new research from the B2B marketplace Expert Market.

Researchers came to their conclusions after examining the workforces of 35 countries around the world. Specifically, they determined each country’s level of productivity by dividing the annual gross domestic product (GDP) — the value of all of the goods and services produced within each country over a year — by the average number of hours worked by both full-time and part-time employees in a five-day workweek.

Overall, the U.S. ranked eighth worldwide in terms of productivity. Based on the average workweek of 34.4 hours, American employees produce an average of $31.19 per hour and $214.59 per week.

But that’s only about half of what employees in Luxembourg churn out. Employees in the small European country (which borders France, Germany and Belgium) topped this year’s list, with employees working 31.6 hours each week and producing $60.26 per hour and $381 per week. [See Related Story: Want to Boost Employee Productivity? Offer an Incentive]

The study revealed that all seven of the countries that were ranked ahead of the U.S. have employees who work fewer hours each year than employees in the United States. For example, Germany has the shortest average workweek, at 26 hours, yet still produces $34.21 per hour.

On the flip side, of the countries included in the study, employees in Mexico and Costa Rica work the most hours each week — 42.85 hours and 42.65 hours, respectively, yet they rank the worst in productivity. Mexicans produce just $7.85 per hour, while Costa Rican employees produce $6.99 per hour.

Michael Horrocks, a publishing manager at Expert Market, said the research proves that hours spent in the office do not equate to business success and that chaining your workers to their desks doesn’t benefit anyone.

“Hopefully, this means that the culture of presenteeism will be a thing of the past and we will see a more flexible and balanced approach to work in the future,” Horrocks said in a statement. “Employees are clearly more beneficial to organizations when they are happier, so in this instance, what’s good for the individual is also what’s good for business.”

The top 10 countries in the study in terms of productivity were:

Luxembourg – hours worked per week: 31.6; hourly productivity: $60.26
Norway – hours worked: 27.4; hourly productivity: $47.93
Australia – hours worked: 32; hourly productivity: $39.30
Switzerland – hours worked: 30.15; hourly productivity: $39.30
Netherlands – hours worked: 27.4; hourly productivity: $34.53
Germany – hours worked: 26.4; hourly productivity: $34.21
Denmark – hours worked: 27.6; hourly productivity: $31.82
United States – hours worked: 34.4; hourly productivity: $31.19
Ireland – hours worked: 35; hourly productivity: $30.47
Sweden – hours worked: 30.9; hourly productivity: $29.77
The countries ranking in the bottom 10 were Costa Rica, Mexico, Chile, Latvia, Russia, Greece, Poland, Hungary, Portugal and Estonia.

Many studies suggest that longer hours in the office decreases productivity due to employee stress and burnout, and experts advise taking breaks and time away from work. Check out this Business News Daily article for more tips on decreasing workplace stress.

Tips To Reduce Stress At Your Job

unduhan-61Stress is a part of work. It provides the correct amount of pressure to complete a task with excellence and efficiency. When the anxiety becomes too overwhelming, however, stress follows you out of the office and affects your personal and professional lives.

While it may not be feasible or necessary to change jobs, here are a few steps to help you better manage your stress at work.

Identify the cause
It may seem simple, but identifying the root cause of your issues will help begin the healing process.

The American Psychological Association said some workplace stressors can be come from low salaries, excessive workloads, few opportunities for growth or advancement, work that’s uninteresting or that isn’t challenging, a lack of social support, and a lack of power over your career.

These issues can have negative physical side effects, long and short term. You may experience headaches, stomachaches or sleep disturbances; have a shorter temper; or have difficulty concentrating. Chronic stress can result in anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system, the APA said. Such stress can also contribute to health conditions, such as depression, obesity and heart disease. Compounding the problem, people who experience excessive stress often deal with it in unhealthy ways such as by overeating, consuming unhealthy foods, smoking cigarettes, or abusing drugs and alcohol. [See Related Story: 5 Simple Scientific Ways to Be Less Stressed at Work]

Work smarter
Once you’ve identified some of the stress weighing on you, assess your relationships with your co-workers. Do you have friendly relationships, or do you duck behind your computer screen and avoid contact? Slight changes to your communication and work style could establish a better connection with those around you and remove some anxiety.

Socialize with your co-workers. You don’t have to be a social butterfly and hit up happy hour every week, but making small talk with your colleagues might actually help you relax. Bring up light, interesting subjects and get a conversation going. This can be beneficial for productivity and stress release, said Austin Paley, corporate marketing communications manager at web-design agency Blue Fountain Media.

“You will begin to understand one another on a more individual level and work in a more collaborative environment as a result,” he added.

Even just getting to know the people on your immediate team can improve your mood and help you work together better.

Projects “can be very stressful if you’re working with people you don’t know well,” Paley said. “Lead the team you’re working with through team-building exercises when you have downtime — whether it’s playing a cooperative game, going out for food or just doing something you all love — together in your free time.”

Unplug. Being connected via your mobile device 24/7 comes with its own set of stressors. Constant phone calls, texts and email updates have become overwhelming, especially when you’re answering messages after clocking out for the evening.

Say yes more often when co-workers offer help on a big project or are willing to collaborate. This will alleviate some workload, and staying organized and on task will make for a more productive workflow.

“While there are undoubtedly instances when staying connected is legitimately necessary, it’s rare for a business to require that every team member stay logged on continuously. In fact, it’s in a company’s interest to allow employees to recover,” social psychologist Ron Friedman wrote for Fast Company. “If an associate is frequently working late into the night and through the weekend, she is likely doing so at a cost to long-term engagement.”

Keep a handwritten to-do list. Staying on task with a to-do list is essential for success. In the digital age, the notion of writing out your tasks for the day might seem tedious, wasteful and unnecessary. But Paley said that a prioritized, handwritten list of your most important to-do’s could help you get a clearer outline of what your day should look like.

“By having a handwritten to-do list, my tasks for the day never get lost amongst all the other things happening on my computer over the course of a day, and I don’t stress out over whether or not I’m forgetting any important tasks,” Paley said.

“[Writing] the list in the morning helps to outline what the day will look like and make it clearer at the beginning of the day what needs to get done. Additionally, crossing off items of your list physically can be incredibly gratifying and instill a feeling of relief and accomplishment.”

Do more for yourself
Your day-to-day practices and routines often play a huge role in your stress levels. Breaking bad habits and forging good ones can help you feel more at ease during the workday. Here are some good habits to adopt:

Schedule breaks into your day. If you’re glued to your chair for the entire workday and never give yourself any time away from work-related tasks, you’re much more likely to be stressed out. Paley advised building designated breaks into your daily schedule, and really sticking to them.

“Go for a walk, grab coffee, or take the time to sit down and have lunch,” Paley said. “All of these things give you the time to clear your mind, give your brain a break from whatever you’re working on and reduce stress. Breaks lasting no more than an hour won’t cut into your productivity and are especially beneficial if you work in a position where creativity is important.”

Paley noted that scheduling these breaks at similar times every day helps you train yourself to be prepared for a “brain reset,” making you far more productive over the course of a day.

Devote time to physical, mental and emotional self-maintenance. John Koeberer, author of “Green-Lighting Your Future: How to Manifest the Perfect Life” (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013), said a healthy diet and regular exercise, along with a good self-image and spiritual practices, can prepare you to deal with stress successfully.

“Just the knowledge that your mind, body and soul are in sturdy shape is a huge deterrent to stress getting a foothold,” Koeberer said.

Be kind to yourself. When you’re bogged down with stress-inducing projects and deadlines, it can be difficult to see beyond them. Even long-term assignments end eventually, so you just need to keep going and remember that the challenges you’re facing now will seem small and insignificant when you’ve finally overcome them.

“We can all recollect instances that we thought at the time were real deal-killers, only to have them turn out to be a small anthill,” Koeberer said. “Adopt the thought that this, too, shall pass.”

It may be impossible to eradicate every stressor from the workplace. You may not even want to do that, as some stress can be healthy and encourage you to meet deadlines and keep your head on straight. But working to eliminate bad stress and making your workplace healthier will change the way you view your job.