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Weekly Dose of Dialogue: Work Stress

Wow, last post got a decent number of comments fairly quickly, so while I'll be continuing dialogue there, I thought I would post another one.

5 ways to cut work stress from CNN.com

Are the five 'simple' steps listed in this article realistic, particularly in the current job market? When jobs are plentiful and qualified workers are scarce (for example the unemployment rate in this region had dropped below 3% at one point) it's relatively simple to cut work stress, because an employer would rather keep their employees than risk not being able to find new ones. When jobs are scarce, though, and employers get to pick and choose among the most qualified candidates for a position, is it safe to try to push back against job-related stress?

1. Clearly articulate your expectations.
This one should be a no-brainer. Open lines of communication are important in any social or professional relationship. Though this bullet in the article is more oriented towards managers, I think it's equally valid throughout the entire employment chain. By communicating to your boss what support you expect from them so that you can do your job, as well as what you believe is expected of you, stress caused by misunderstanding of responsibilities can be reduced.

2. At the end of each meeting, ask someone to sum up what's been said and who is going to do what.
This goes with point #1 - communication. This bullet is really a more specific way of improving lines of communication. Just be careful that at the end of a long meeting you don't drag people into re-hashing what's already been discussed, and instead just provide a non-conversational summary of action items.

3. Put a cap on hours
This is probably the most challenging one to accomplish, in a job-scarce economy. It's hard to convince your employer to let you stick to a 40 hour week, when other people are willing to 50, 60, or even longer weeks because at least it means a steady paycheck. Pay scales in the US are based on a 40-hour work week, and if you're working more than that you're effectively taking a pay cut. It may be worth it in order to keep your job, but it can also burn you out if it goes on for too long. And when the 50 hour week becomes the accepted standard, it just makes it that much easier to push for "just another hour a day", then "just one more" and now you're at 60...

4. Schedule some downtime each week.
Wait, isn't that what weekends are for? Of course right now a lot of people I know are being forced (expected?) to work weekends, so maybe downtime is something that does need to be scheduled. How do you make sure you have enough "me" time, with so many professional and social demands on your time?

5. Help people set realistic priorities.
Remarkably, even writing down your list of priorities can help accomplish them. If you're being pulled in so many different directions you don't know what you're doing from one moment to the next, it's hard to get any of it done. By setting priorities, when you're lost you can go back and refer to the list to see what you need to focus on next.

What are your thoughts? Do you have any other techniques for cutting work-related stress? I'd like to hear from managers as well as workers.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
wolffit
Oct. 7th, 2009 11:44 pm (UTC)
All very good points, Rigel - particularly the additional ways to cut stress. At my company we do the first two (reasonable internet access, and a stocked kitchen) and try to do the last two (involve the grunts in the planning and decision making, and setting realistic goals.)

What about telecommuting? Is that a way to cut stress, or does that just change the nature of the stress?

If I remember correctly, you feel there is a line between social and work life, and do not tend to engage in social activities with your coworkers. I know some companies offer social activities as a way to build team cohesion and blow off steam at the end of the day (we're having a happy hour next Friday, for example.) Do you think those are a valid way to reduce stress among those who enjoy such activity?
(Deleted comment)
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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Galen Wolffit

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