All articles

Escaping the clutches of unhealthy workplace stress

April 10, 2018

Escaping the clutches of unhealthy workplace stress

People have been living with stress ever since the first humans tried to outrun large, predatory mammals. So why all the recent talk about reducing stress in the workplace?

Aside from benevolently wanting to build a better work environment, reducing high levels of stress makes practical business sense. Studies over the past several years have demonstrated that reducing high stress increases employee engagement, improves productivity and lessens absenteeism.

Rob Archer is a Chartered Psychologist who uses contextual behavioural science to help employees with their careers and wellbeing. Rob was first introduced to the Octopus executive committee by Kirstie Hawton, Head of Leadership and Talent. Octopus CEO Simon Rogerson was so impressed with his presentation, Rob has been invited back twice now to meet with employees throughout the organisation to discuss stress and help them manage wellbeing.

Stephen O’Herlihy, SQL Server DBA, was one of 25 employees who participated in Rob’s recent workshops at Octopus Labs. “The class was very much conversation-based,” Stephen said, “with Rob posing questions and drawing out conversations.” Topics included the causes of stress, signs of high stress, and ways to deal with it.

Lucy Windsor, Labs Product Manager, also attended the workshop. “For me one of the most important parts was recognising that there is good and bad stress. And learning about signs to look out for when stress is turning to bad stress.”

 Rob explained to the group that some stress is helpful for both health and performance. In the short term, good stress can galvanise us into action and play an important role in improving performance (as it did in helping our forebears escape from large, predatory mammals). But prolonged bad stress can have debilitating health and performance consequences.

Sam Bravery, Business and Operations Manager, found the workshop to be a great synthesis of different wellness ideas. Sam noted, in particular, Rob’s concept of “marginal gains,” in which you commit to a small change of routine for just 21 days. It could be as simple as creating a daily “to do” list. You may find that after 21 days, such short-term commitments turn into long-term habits.

Rob left the group with some recommended reading, which included The Chimp Paradox, The Hour Between Dog and Wolf, and Thinking Fast & Slow.

“It was a great experience to share with colleagues,” added Stephen. “Many were open about their issues with stress and shared their steps to improve mental well-being — from meditation to exercise to simply changing work habits.” With such positive feedback from Rob’s presentation, Octopus will undoubtedly chase him down for more workshops in the near future.