What’s making you fat: stress in the workplace

What’s making you fat: stress in the workplace

by Carla Curtsinger

Remember the 40-hour work week?  The eight-hour work day?

I miss those guys.

Sadly the digital workplace, along with its many conveniences, has also ushered in one big inconvenience: the endless work day.

“Stress is the new fat,” said Jan Bruce, CEO and Founder of MeQuilibrium. “Today we eat too much. We work too much. We sleep too little. We work out even less, and we have less and less down time. And then the tipping point: 24/7 wireless connectivity and its attendant obligations.”

Stress shows up not only as fat on our hips, but in our budgets, too. Last year alone, stress cost US businesses $867 billion due to absenteeism, presenteeism, burnout and turnover.

So how do companies help their employees help themselves? In her keynote address at a recent HR Insight Summit, Bruce said we have to dig deep.

“The science is very clear and incontrovertible. In order to help people manage their stress, we have to get to the root cause, and the root cause of our stress response is our thinking styles, and how we react to the events around us,” said Bruce. “When we help people manage their thinking, challenge and adapt their thinking, we help them better manage their behaviors, and that’s resilience.”

We eat too much. We work too much. We sleep too little. We work out even less.

Resilience is our ‘capacity to recover quickly from difficulties,’ our mental toughness, and Mequilibrium has identified seven factors to foster:

* Emotional regulation

* Impulse control

* Causal Analysis

* Self-efficacy

* Realistic optimism

* Empathy

* Reaching out

The first three factors are about controlling your impulses and feelings. If you can, you won’t make mistakes, rash decisions or other actions that are big contributors to stress. The next three concern your ability to see what is possible and what is not.

“Resilient people assess their surroundings as well as their own strengths and weaknesses in context, and know where they will excel—and where they will fall short.  At the same time, they have a positive bias—they expect good things from the world and from other people,” said Bruce. “You also need the ability to aim high and reach out. So when things don’t go your way (as they sometimes don’t), and you feel hindered or pushed back, your inner resilience can keep you coming back, and reaching out, not just to “try again,” but to outdo yourself once again.”

HR senior executives in attendance at the summit agreed that this was an important issue that must be addressed.

“As an HR leader, it is my responsibility to keep my environment stress-free,” said Rajeswari Ramanan, former UST Global VP of HR, “and my executives protected from stress.”

And unless we all plan to work (and eat) a lot less, dealing with stress will continue to be a focus for HR professionals.

“Resilience can be a foundational tool to help people get their head in the game,” said Bruce, “And help them have the lives and the success that they want.”

If you’re interested in attending or learning more about the 2017 HR Insight Summit, visit the summit website for details.

Carla Curtsinger
Master of Ceremonies, On-Site Content Manager

Carla Curtsinger serves as Master of Ceremonies and On-Site Content Manager at industry summits and roundtable discussions around the world. She is also an author, university lecturer and communications trainer. Carla holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Kentucky and a Master's certificate in Publishing from New York University. She loves movies, television and pop culture and mentions all three whenever possible.