An employee is resting his head against his work desk beside papers and a laptop due to stress.
Image: © Peera/

Why workplace stress management doesn’t just belong in the office

5 Dec 2019

Shane Metcalf, chief culture officer at 15five, discusses the importance of stress management for happiness in and out of the office.

Stress is something that many of us are very familiar with and, according to the American Psychological Association, money and work are two of the leading contributors.

In light of that, efforts to combat the potential harm of work-related stress are becoming more commonplace. Last month, WeTransfer and Headspace announced a joint initiative through which they hope to boost mindfulness and meditation for people throughout the work day.

And here in Ireland, a new campaign was recently launched to provide support for the mental wellbeing of advertising and communications professionals around the country.

Such initiatives are particularly important in light of a new workplace report from 15five. The performance management software company reiterated the link between work and stress with a recent survey on the next-generation workplace. It asked respondents to reflect on the top words they associate with their work, and the most popular answers were ‘stress’, ‘busy’ and ‘money’.

We spoke to the company’s co-founder and chief culture officer Shane Metcalf to hear his insights on keeping work-related anxiety at bay.

‘Giving people time in the day to centre and focus on themselves is very important’

According to him, feeling stressed is “natural” when it comes to the workplace. But the fact that 79pc of respondents 15five’s survey claimed to be regularly worrying about work outside of the office is a sign that, if left unchecked, these feelings can significantly impact a person’s work-life balance and, ultimately, their happiness.

Here, Metcalf discusses how organisations can cultivate an environment in which stress is less of an obstacle, and gives his expert insights into the measures leaders can take to improve staff morale, motivation and general contentment.

What is it about working life that can make people stressed?

You wake up with Slack notifications and you go to bed with them. We expect a lot from our people and, frankly, to compete in the modern economy, a company must have a highly responsive workforce.

This, though, can quickly sink into shadowy territory where personal boundaries become blurred and people forget that it’s okay to create regular time off of tech and work.

That’s the job of a modern cultural engineer – to create clarity for people to wait until the next day to respond. But if it’s not explicitly stated, people often feel obligated to respond as fast as possible.

What are the negative impacts of that on a person’s life, both in and out of the office?

Stress is natural for everyone to have at the workplace. Small amounts of it can hold us accountable, but too much can be debilitating. Also, it’s important to remember that it’s difficult to separate work-related stress from non-work-related stress. That’s why there’s a big push in organisations toward viewing their employees as whole beings.

Our environment plays a significant role in how we perceive and manage that stress. At the workplace, if management ignores stress, employees will follow their lead and it will negatively impact their life.

But when leaders recognise stress and teach employees to do the same, managing it can be easier. And when harnessed correctly, work-related stress can allow employees to achieve more during the typical workday.

What’s your advice for preventing, or at least limiting, work-related stress?

Stress looks different for each employee. But there are a few key practices management can implement to limit work-related stress across the organisation:

Developing an employee wellness programme is one way many companies encourage healthy lifestyles for employees while reducing stress. This can include physical movement with fun activities, as it causes the cardiovascular system to perform better and can also help one think more clearly.

Offering social programmes throughout organisations is another important initiative that can limit stress. Working cultures that encourage employees to build relationships with co-workers on a deeper level can support and level stress both professionally and personally.

Giving people time in the day to centre and focus on themselves is very important. We provide employees with a membership and encourage our employees to take five minutes whenever needed to recharge, sit still and give themselves some personal time throughout the day.

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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