Corporate stress in the digital age
The consequences have a direct effect on the bottom line
Our heads are spinning. We have witnessed numerous changes in the lives of kids, families, schools, businesses and communities. From device addiction to the opiate and vaping epidemics to what we call “Outcome Fever,” to insanely busy families never having dinner together, we see a generation of anxious, non-resilient, distracted, over-stimulated, I-kids. And many parents and educators aren’t far behind!
The consequences of stress on business environments aren’t fully understood yet; however, one thing we think we can agree on is this: Stress in corporate America is costing billions of dollars and deeply affecting workers and their families.
From a 50 percent divorce rate to the pressures of paying for increasingly less reassuring college diplomas for their kids, business people are suffering from stress on and off the job, and it is surely affecting individual and group performance.
Corporate leaders are beginning to talk about strategies to create calmer, more connected teams and communities in the workplace. We see mindfulness training springing up everywhere, and workers are exercising more, many times on premises. Training around life-work balance is as popular as ever. People want and need solutions to the stress problem.
In our respective careers spanning nearly 40 years each — Tom’s as a business leader and Jeff’s as a teacher, psychotherapist and life coach — we have learned five very powerful facts we’d like to share:
• Here in Digital 2018, almost everybody is stressed: too many emails, not enough time. Too much to do, not enough unplugging. The fabrics of connection in the office and at home in every employee’s life might have begun to fray a bit. No one’s exempt and, in some business environments, no one’s talking about it, let alone solving the problem.
• Companies can’t begin solving the stress problem without naming it. We have to admit we have a problem in the cultures of our companies.
• The ability to shed stress and connect deeply with oneself and colleagues can be taught.
• Kindness, connection and civility in any group help the people involved feel welcomed, cared about and safe, and in that social environment, the bottom line gets happy.
• There are relevant “secrets” known to psychotherapists and savvy corporate leaders which, when demystified and taught in business settings, free people via powerful “aha” experiences and provide them with tools to be happier and more connected at work and home and to behave with the kind of civility that creates company unity and productivity.
A good first step for corporate leadership is simply courage: Find the courage to raise the subject of stress at your next in-house leadership meeting.
Divide the meeting as follows: half the time will be devoted to discussing and venting about the stress and disconnection people on your leadership team are experiencing and that which they’re observing on their respective teams. The second half of the meeting must be devoted to brainstorming solutions. All comments, no matter how silly on the surface, will be accepted.
This two-part process will begin opening people’s minds and hearts. You, the company’s leadership, have demonstrated the courage to name the elephant in the room — stress, and you have also demonstrated the willingness to do something about it along with your leadership team.
What pans out from there is the exciting part. Whatever you do, keep the process moving. Many business leaders, educational leaders, even parents, feel stuck for not having named the “Digital Age Stress Problem,” let alone begun to solve it. By doing so in your company, you’ll find you have a marvelous leg up on things. Doors will open, and you’ll access the creative juices of your people.
Why? People crave connection, and they’re not getting it. You’ll find them extremely interested in this conversation and the creation of nurturing solutions for all concerned.
Jeff Levin, a former middle school teacher, has been a practicing psychotherapist for over 25 years and a life coach for the last 10. Tom Raffio is president and CEO of Concord-based Northeast Delta Dental.