The Daily Self-Care Secrets to Combating Employee Stress

We already know that juggling the demands of life and work during a pandemic has caused unprecedented levels of stress for employees — we’re experiencing it firsthand. We’ve seen how stress has negatively affected engagement and productivity in myriad ways, from checking out to burning out. The sad reality is that few people, if any, are truly thriving right now. But there’s a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, and the switch, as it were, comes in the form of daily self-care.

To provide employees with the right level of stress-relief and self-care support, it’s essential to understand how stress operates. First, it is inextricably linked to both our personal and work lives. Therefore, employers cannot ignore what is going on at home in the hopes it will not affect their teams at work. Second, it’s critical to have insight into what workers are already doing (or not doing) to cope, so your wellbeing approach and provided programs can be relevant and make the most impact.

Stress Looks Different on Everyone

Grokker Innovation Labs’ 2021 Working Americans’ State of Stress research found that stress is a problem for nearly all employees, regardless of their company size, level of seniority, age, or work location (on-site or at home). While there are fascinating nuances in the results — executives are over three times more likely to feel “overwhelmed” by stress, while younger employees suffer from the highest stress levels overall — the scope and prevalence of stress in today’s workforce is ubiquitous. It’s an alarming reality that employers are desperately trying to get ahead of.

What is notable is that although everyone’s life — and let’s face it, our mind/body balance — has all been disrupted, we experience and cope with stress in vastly different ways. The State of Stress research reveals a variety of impacts on workers’ weekly routines:

  • Increased video/tv watching (50%)
  • Increased consumption of salty, sweet, or fatty foods (48%)
  • Decreased physical exercise (42%)
  • Increased use of substances, such as alcohol and opioids (25%)

At work, the negative impact of stress manifests most commonly in these ways:

  • Difficulty concentrating (50%)
  • Procrastinating (46%)
  • Lacking inspiration (33%)
  • Difficulty connecting with or avoidance of colleagues or clients (31%)
  • Missing meetings or deadlines (24%)

So, what are employees doing to manage stress on their own? Here’s where this discussion about stress and self-care gets interesting — there’s a surprisingly extensive range of possibilities! The State of Stress research uncovers workers’ current go-to stress-relieving activities:

  • Trying to get more sleep (48%)
  • Engaging in light exercise (39%)
  • Spending time outdoors, experiencing nature (38%)
  • Eating healthfully (35%)
  • Connecting with others virtually (29%)
  • Meditating/practicing mindfulness (28%)
  • Connecting with others in person, while social distancing (27%)
  • Engaging in vigorous exercise (21%)


Arming Employees with the Self-Care Resources They Need

These insights are revealed when examining the everyday lives of employees. Consider Andrea, a remote employee with two school-aged children underfoot. She often has trouble focusing on work but leans on extra sleep, a veggie-packed smoothie, and a 15-minute yoga session to make it through the day. Then there’s Leon, a self-proclaimed “couch potato” who juxtaposes indulgent snacking with rigorous living room workouts, enabling him to show up on video conferences feeling positive and energized.

Are these employees operating at pre-pandemic productivity levels? Who is to say? But they’re actively managing their stress in personally meaningful ways and maintaining wellbeing when they need it the most.

No one person’s stress “profile” looks the same as the next — and clearly, neither does their approach to managing stress. There’s usually a yin and yang at play: a person might retreat into sedentary entertainment and snacking to decompress but rejuvenate with a workout; another might stay centered through outdoor walks at lunchtime or daily mindfulness practice. It’s up to each individual to choose how, when, and where, as well as which symptoms of stress they’re going to take action on. 

If there were a tried-and-true antidote to stress, we wouldn’t be facing this conundrum. But there is no silver bullet that works for everyone. That’s why it’s critical to let employees determine what they need and help them engage in self-care on their terms. In this day and age, employers need to provide digital tools that check these boxes:

  • Available on-demand, on any connected device, so employees can take “wellbeing breaks” whenever and wherever they need to
  • Support whole-person wellbeing (i.e., fitness, nutrition, sleep, and mental health) so multiple, interconnected areas can be addressed alone or simultaneously
  • Enable employees to take small steps every day towards decreasing symptoms of stress and reward them for working toward improving their holistic wellbeing
  • Deliver content via video by credentialed experts who guide and demonstrate effective techniques that can turn into healthy habits
  • Connect employees with one another for support and camaraderie around shared wellbeing goals

The Goal? Stress Less for the Long-Term

There’s no magic one-size-fits-all solution to alleviating stress. When it comes to coping with the “new normal” of pandemic living, the fact is that every employee is going to attack stress management in their own personal way. This puts the concept and practice of self-care at the center of workforce wellbeing. If we can enable employees with inspiration and support, we replace the “bad behaviors” that aren’t serving them with “good behaviors” that move the needle on long-term wellbeing and start helping them head in the right direction.

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