If you’re like the majority of American workers, you’ve most likely felt stressed at work within the past week.
In fact, a report from Attitudes in the American Workplace found that 80 percent of American workers say they feel stress on the job, and nearly half of them say they need help learning to manage such stress.
Fortunately, new research from the Wexner Medical Center at The Ohio State University suggests that there is a way to control work-related stress: practice relaxation techniques on the job.
The study, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, allowed random employees of a surgical intensive care unit at the academic medical center to participate in an eight-week course of mindfulness-based intervention practices.
Researchers put the participants through activities such as gentle stretching, meditation, yoga and listening to music in the workplace. The effects of such practices on participants’ psychological and biological stress levels were then recorded weekly.
At the conclusion of the study, researchers found that employees who had been exposed to relaxation techniques on the job had significantly lower stress levels than those who had not participated in the mindfulness activities.
“Our study shows that this type of mindfulness-based intervention in the workplace could decrease stress levels and the risk of burnout,” said Maryanna Klatt, associate clinical professor in the department of Family Medicine at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center and one of the study’s authors.
Klatt says that while stress will always be a part of the work environment, the way an employee reacts to stress can be influenced by relaxation techniques.
“What’s stressful about the work environment is never going to change,” she said. “But what we were interested in changing was the nursing personnel’s reaction to those stresses. We measured salivary alpha amylase, which is a biomarker of the sympathetic nervous system activation, and that was reduced by 40 percent in the intervention group.”
The research may hold implications for the American workforce, as employee stress levels are directly related to efficiency and productivity rates. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, employees who are stressed are more likely to be absent, less productive and more likely to quit. It’s estimated that employee stress can cost American businesses up to $300 billion per year.
“People who are subjected to chronic stress often will exhibit symptoms of irritability, nervousness, feeling overwhelmed; have difficulty concentrating or remembering; or having changes in appetite, sleep, heart rate and blood pressure,” said Anne-Marie Duchemin, lead author of the study. “Although work-related stress often cannot be eliminated, effective coping strategies may help decrease its harmful effects.”
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