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Stress Management: Workplace Wellness

What is stress?

  • Stress is a naturally occurring reaction of your body to psychological or physical demands of the environment. 
  • Stress reaction increases blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration as well as other changes to major body systems.  These reactions prepare the body for “fight or flight” from physically dangerous or psychological threatening situations. 
  • Stress reaction can be positive or negative. —  Positive stress reaction leads to increased performance, feelings of success and confidence and allows the body to return to the normal, non-stress state. —  Negative stress or mismanaged stress, keeps the physical reaction of the body turned on and does not let the body completely recover to the non-stress state.

What causes stress reaction in the workplace?

  • Task demands- having to repeatedly learn new processes, meeting unrealistic deadlines.
  • Time demands- frequent deadlines, schedule conflicts, “too much to do,” interruptions and unpredictable schedules (particularly for employees who have daily rhythms in shift work).
  • Physical demands – environment (weather, noise, vibration) and activity (standing, walking, bending, lifting).
  • Role demands—added responsibility in supervision and leadership.
  • Interpersonal demands—interacting with public, customers, co-workers.

What are the consequences of negative stress?

Negative stress or mismanaged stress reactions to workplace demand can be grouped as:

  • Behavioral-may include alcohol or drug abuse, accidents, violence, and eating disorders.
  • Psychological-may include family problems, sleep disturbance, depression, burnout syndrome.
  • Medical-may include heart disease, stroke, headache, cancer.

Long-term effects of negative stress can lead to exhaustion, reduced ability of the immune system to fight off illness and disease and put the employee at risk for health problems and work performance issues.

Worksite wellness committees can initiate programs and activities to help employees manage the demands of the work environment. 


Some companies are taking a proactive approach to managing employee stress.

  • 37.5 percent of workplaces offer stress management programs.1
  • 34 percent of workplaces that offer full-intervention stress management programs saw a reduction in health care use by employees, lowering company health care costs.2 And these programs are truly helping employees reduce their stress levels.
  • 77 percent of employees who sought treatment for issues such as stress or depression through an employee assistance program (EAP) reported increased work performance after three months of treatment.3
  • 94 percent of employees in an EAP reported missing fewer days of work after three months of treatment.3 Simple Ways to Manage Stress
  • Set prioritize and achievable goals
  • Be realistic about what is possible, and let people know what you can or can’t do under reasonable circumstances
  • Don’t procrastinate
  • Turn to people who can provide support
  • Be open to change- at work and home
  • Take a few slow, deep breaths
  • Stretch-roll your shoulders forward and back
  • Get regular physical activity-even a walk around a few blocks will help calm you and put demands into perspective
  • Meditate for 15 minutes
  • Talks with family and friends
  • Listen to music
  • Take breaks