Beyond understanding the factors contributing to work-related stress and acting on it, it is essential to approach the topic with a long-term outlook.

Work-related stress is a well-researched and often discussed subject. But the solution remains elusive, though the stress levels continue to grow endlessly. With return-to-office in the post-pandemic world, there is now an urgent need to grow the business, keep pace with hybrid working models, manage your team, and adopt technological advancements. Invariably, this brings an immense amount of stress on individuals which has an invisible long-term impact on their wellbeing as they struggle to match up to the expectations.

Rob Cooke, a relationship manager for high-net-worth individuals and an individual with experience and interest in personal health in the work-space explores this unseen dimension of work-related stress in this TED Talk. He throws light on the larger impact of work-related stress on the economy and future. Rob also talks about handling stress which goes beyond the sphere of an individual and calls for collective responsibility in acknowledging its impact on wellbeing.

Here is a new outlook on understanding work-related stress and how to tackle it.

The quantification of work stress

At the outset, everyone acknowledges that work-related stress impacts productivity and wellness. But if you break it down further, its effects are felt in aspects like employee disengagement, chronic diseases, work-related illness and even injuries. Rob estimates this could account for 2.2 trillion dollars annually which is roughly 12% of the GDP of the US.

In the Indian context, a recent study states 70% of Indian employees experience stress due to work at least once a week, which is slightly higher than the 60% average of the Asia-Pacific region. Beyond the impact on productivity, the stress could expand into the personal life of the employee, affecting their family and relationships. Rob shares his father’s story of how work-related stress resulted in irreversible high blood pressure and loss of a kidney. After a decade spent on dialysis, he discusses how neither his family nor the economy benefited from his father’s work ethic or intelligence. Thus, driving home the long-term impact on your own life and the life of others around you due to stress.

3 action points to combat stress

Stress is common. The most common reason attributed to it is excessive work and the struggle for work-life balance. Rob challenges this notion and states that stress is a result of the overall work culture where an individual operates. This shift in thought-process is the key to combat stress which is not just internal but involves the entire ecosystem.

Need to care for mental health

Firstly, he talks about the role of organizations in realizing the need to build a strong culture centered around employees. This would manifest into investing in the emotional well-being of employees just like investing in other functional areas like innovation or R&D. Most importantly, how leaders can move the needle by not just standing aside but actively showing care for the mental health of their team.

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Communication is the key

Next, Rob talks about creating an environment that enables employees to talk candidly about what is stressing them out and what support or benefits they need. A boss who actively listens, responds and works on the feedback will help the team-mate handle stressful situations much better. In practice, this is a huge task between chasing business goals, numerous tasks and severe paucity of time that occurs every day.

Role of the Government

Beyond the common touchpoints in this equation, employee, boss and organization; Rob takes us to a high-level point of view by stating how the Government can play its part here. Establishing higher workplace standards, corporate wellness policies and incentives can enforce the growing need for mental health and propel organizations in that direction.

Start with yourself

While handling work-related stress may require support from the outside world, the realization of its existence remains within each person. Rob stresses on the importance of being honest about one’s emotional well-being and asking yourself, “Is this bringing me the value I saw with what it costs me?”. Quite honestly, it is not easy to ask that question given the financial element involved in the equation. But taking that pause once in a while is critical to determine where you are headed to.

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