Can stress ever help an employee perform better?

Date: Monday, 22nd January, 2018

As we all know stress, in all its forms, can be life changing. In the workplace, multiple measures are taken by HR professionals to attempt to eradicate, or least cut down, on factors which encourage employee stress. And for good reason.

A recent report from workforce consulting firm, Life Meets Work found that stress from leaders causes ripples throughout their company – negatively impacting on everything from employee engagement to the bottom line.

“Companies often focus on fixing individual employees to help them be less stressed and therefore more engaged. Yet, our study found that employee engagement was better predicted by the leader’s ability to manage stress than the employee’s current stress level,” explained Kenneth Matos, psychologist and Vice President of Research for Life Meets Work. “A leader’s inability to manage stress ripples through the entire company in a negative way.”

Does this then suggest that all stress is negative stress?

A report from the University of California found that short periods of stress can actually help stimulate cell growth, which in turn results in new brain cells.  After monitoring rats, which were placed in stressful situations, researchers found that a few weeks later their alertness, learning and memory had improved.

However, this doesn’t mean HR will be promoting stress in the office – rather monitoring how stress affects different employees in different ways. A study from Leadership IQ, titled ‘Does Your Job Require High or Low Emotional Intelligence?’, found that just over half (51%) of employees admit that they always or frequently have to ‘act’ or ‘put on a show’ with their emotions at work. This in turn can lead to anxiety, or at the very least dismay.

As for dealing with workplace stress, Dr Christian Jessen, Doctor and TV Presenter of ‘Embarrassing Bodies’, revealed how the pressure of presenteeism is affecting our mental health as well as our work-life balance.

“The fact that we don’t really know how to do nothing is something I find rather sad,” he says. “We always feel like we should be doing something – we feel guilty about sitting and watching television; we feel guilty about reading a book for an hour; we think that we need to be emptying the dishwasher or putting another wash on.

“But, we need to get over that guilt if we want to fully encompass all arms of our health. Eastern medicine has been doing this for a long time, whilst in the West, we’ve been ignoring it – and look who is suffering more.”

What do you think? is all stress is negative? or does it have a part to play in a productive work environment?

If you need any further advice on managing stress in the workplace please get in touch.

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