It’s not just you: Employees everywhere are stressed out.
Nearly three-quarters (74%) of Canadians are feeling some impact of work or personal stress, according to a July 2022 survey by LifeWorks (now Telus Health). More than a quarter (26%) cite work stressors as their primary source of stress (including volume of work, performance demands, and lack of support), and 26% cite personal stressors as number one.1 Globally, stress among workers reached an all-time high in 2021, according to Gallup’s “State of the Global Workplace: 2022” report, with 41% of adults experiencing a lot of stress.2
While some level of work-related stress will always exist, too much of it can take a toll on your mental, physical and emotional health. The impact on mental health – a topic that’s been in the spotlight lately – includes increased risk of anxiety, burnout, depression, and more.3 On the brighter side, many organizations have stepped up their efforts around employee mental health, and people are actively seeking supports like flexible work hours and a workplace culture that respects time.4
Certainly, support will differ from company to company, and often there’s just no getting around being busy. But with a few simple daily habits and practices, you can take charge of your mental health and take some stress out of your workday.
1. Use the delay delivery option for emails
If you’re working outside the typical 9-to-5 or across time zones, consider using the “delay delivery” option on email. By scheduling your email to send the next working day, you can avoid interfering with your colleagues’ and clients’ off-the-clock time, and save them from the pressure of having to respond. Another tactic is to include a message in your signature along the lines of, “My workday may look different than yours. Please don’t feel obliged to respond outside your normal working hours.”
2. Craft clear and actionable email subject lines
Chances are you and your co-workers could spend an entire day responding to messages. There are many ways to tackle email overload: For example, some people have a mission to achieve “zero inbox,” while others set aside time blocks throughout the day to check messages.
One tactic that can help you and your colleagues is to write clear and actionable subject lines on internal emails. Subject lines should communicate exactly what the email is about in six to 10 words, as well as the deadline, if there is one. This will allow the recipient to prioritize and label the email without opening it. For example, you can begin each subject line with “INPUT,” “FYI,” or “UPDATE,” followed by the key information.
3. Implement and encourage focus time
Meetings and interruptions often prevent people from having adequate time to focus. When people assume their co-workers are always available for impromptu, non-urgent meetings and discussions, it can impact productivity and morale.
Consider implementing a time-management technique called “focus time” (or “focus hours”), which means scheduling uninterrupted time to get your most important work done, and encourage your co-workers to do the same. Focus time has been found to increase productivity, improve decision-making, and boost creativity. Mark this time on your calendar, along with your standard work hours, and be mindful of your colleagues’ schedules when scheduling meetings. Outside of your team, check the time zone of the meeting participants to ensure you’re not scheduling during their off-hours or breaks.5
4. Try unconventional meeting styles
For most people, meetings are a source of workplace stress. In fact, in a recent U.S. survey by LiveCareer, 25% of respondents said in-person meetings are stressful, 31% said online meetings are stressful, and 28% said both are equally stressful. Only 16% said neither one is stressful. The findings point to several factors that cause stress and anxiety about meetings, including lack of preparation, fear of public speaking, and increased brain activity for prolonged periods.6
When you can, think outside the boardroom. Take advantage of meetings that are conversational, or require “listening in” by scheduling an outdoor or walking meeting. These meeting styles allow you to move, relax, and focus while still being productive. If the weather isn’t cooperating, try an indoor café or “coffee on the couch” meeting at the office.
5. Ask for – and offer – support
Prioritize transparent communication and open dialogue in the workplace. If you’re struggling with something at work, requesting support can enable you and your teammates to share resources, work together, and offer encouragement through challenges. Although it’s okay to ask for help, it’s not easy for everyone. One thought leader suggests taking some time to think about what you’re trying to achieve and then figuring out what resources you need. Completing these sentences will help:
- I’m currently working on... and I could use help to...
- I am struggling to... and I would benefit from...
- My biggest hope is to... and I need...7
At the same time, if you notice a co-worker struggling, check in and offer support. Hopefully, others will follow your example and you can all work together to create a less stressful workplace.
1 Telus Health, “Canadians equally stressed at work as they are in their personal lives,” July 21, 2022
2 Gallup, "World unhappier, more stressed out than ever,” June 28, 2022
3 Corporate Wellness Magazine, “Workplace stress: A silent killer of employee health and productivity”
4 HR Reporter, “What are the top 4 mental health supports desired by workers?” Aug. 25, 2022
5 Microsoft, “Best practices for focus time,” Sept. 22, 2022
6 LiveCareer, “Meeting in the workplace: 2023 Statistics,” July 25, 2022
7 Greater Good Magazine, “How to overcome your reluctance to ask for help at work,” Nov. 16, 2020