How to manage work stress and improve focus quickly and practically from home

Stress is a dynamic, adaptive, and self-regulated process between the person and the environment. Before Covid-19, stress at work was already at an all-time high, reflecting the notion that stress at work has become the zeitgeist of the modern working world. Although some types of stress can be positive, the overwhelming majority of work stressors are considered to be harmful, and there is a group of negative work-related stressors that may be especially salient during these challenging times. 

This group of stressors are  known as hindrances or threats, and they reflect stress emanating from workplace politics, role ambiguity, bureaucracy, and job security. Not only do these types of stressors have physiological consequences, they can also wreak havoc on the psychological relationship you have with your job, resulting in decreased job attitudes and an increased propensity to turnover. 

In so far as hindrance/threat stress is detrimental, we can act against it. Psychology literature tells us that when we find something threatening, we tend to use self-serving biases. We put up a wall of defences and act in ways to protect ourselves from both physical and psychological harm. 

A different approach to stress is to do something about it. Although some stressors cannot be removed, taking proactive steps to resolve or reduce the existence of stressors is generally the best route to take. 

Here are some strategies you can use to combat hindrance stress and how you can help your team cope better with stress during Covid-19.

Seek clarity

The phrase “the only silly question is the one that wasn’t asked” couldn’t be truer during these times. With everyone working remotely, and organizations lacking in their large-scale work from home policies, you may not know exactly what is expected of you during these times. Now is a great time to break down walls of communication and ask your leaders what you can do to help. It is very important to have clearly defined role requirements and expectations as these reduce stress associated with role ambiguity.

If you are a manager, try to help your staff adjust to the current situation. Let your team know that you care. Reach out to your employees, show empathy, ask questions about how you can help them to adapt. Now might be a great time to introduce an open-door policy.  Be absolutely transparent during conversations about the situation at hand and the company’s vision of the future. This may help reduce stress related to job security and/or pay.

Be mindful

Mindfulness has been a popular term during the last 10 or more years. Now may be a good time to actually discover more about mindfulness and start practicing it. This technique can be described as ‘present-focused consciousness’. Basically, it’s all about learning to be present in every single moment, and not ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. Moreover, it teaches individuals to notice what is happening without evaluating, analyzing, or reflecting upon it. 

Mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress.  By adding some of this to your daily routine you can’t go wrong. Navigate through life in real-time, and help your employees to learn best practices of mindfulness with educational content about this useful technique.

To promote mindfulness, you can also introduce mindfulness sessions for your employees. To do this, at Knockri we invite an instructor or internal champions, those who already have some experience with this technique. Another way to promote mindfulness within your company is to encourage staff to take regular breaks including lunch. This helps to detach from work for at least 15 minutes, to recharge batteries and be able to better concentrate and be more alert and refreshed.

Share something you are grateful for

To keep yourself and your team away from negativity, focus on some positive things you have in your life and work. A great way to do this is to focus on some things you are grateful for. As a leader, you can start a team meeting with one sentence from each member sharing what they are grateful for. For example, amazing friends, healthy family or even good weather might be things you appreciate. This will help you to not only boost a positive mindset but also to get to know each other better. 

Focus on positive news and encouraging developments to help  put things in perspective. You have a job, others don’t! Some things you can’t control, look for what you can.  Don’t catastrophize things. This is a difficult time for everyone, and people get that. Although, keeping blinders on can limit creativity and now is not the time to be creative in thinking about the 1000 ways things could possibly go wrong. 

Challenge yourself

As Arnold Schwarzeneggar said, “if you demand a 12-horsepower effort from a 10-horsepower body, it becomes a 12-horsepower body.” The idea behind this is that if you challenge yourself and push beyond your current boundaries you will grow and develop. Some newer research in psychology literature is finding that once you account for the physical drawbacks of challenge, there is an overall positive relationship between challenge at work and job attitudes. 

Challenge at work can come in the form of time pressure, scope of responsibility, or the sheer volume or amount of time you spend at work. Although challenge stress can be exhausting, there is a silver lining. These types of stress can satisfy universal basic needs like autonomy, relatedness and competence, and improve the overall psychological relationship you have with your job. 

During these challenging times, perhaps you can find a few extra projects to work on, set some challenging goals, or start new collaborations. This can be an effective way to combat the negative effects of hindrance stress. 

Summing Up

Although Covid-19 is disrupting our way of work and life to some extent, it is still important to remember that this won’t last forever. The situation is becoming better, numbers of new cases are decreasing, more and more countries are flattening the curve and taking their first steps to re-open the economy. 

All you can do right now is to help yourself and others reduce the impact of the situation by focusing on the positive things, and by spreading this positivity to family members, friends, and your teams at work. 

We’re all in this together. Stay strong, stay positive!

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