Dwight Schrute: Michael, what’s wrong?
Michael Scott: Everything’s wrong. The stress of my modern office has caused me to go into a depression!
Dwight Schrute: Depression? Isn’t that just a fancy word for feeling “bummed out”?
Michael Scott: Dwight, you ignorant *&#?! Depression is a very serious illness.
As we can see from this conversation in the hit TV show The Office, workplace stress is a very real problem. And while the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company may be fictional, the facts are very real.
According to recent reports, the biggest health and safety casualty is stress, and as April is Stress Awareness Month, there’s never been a better time to discuss this topic and provide some helpful coping mechanisms.
In this article, we’re going to share five ways that everyone can cope with workplace stress, all of which are inspired by Dwight Schrute’s drive to succeed…
stop ignoring burnout
Considering that 88% of the UK workforce experienced burnout in the last two years and the fact that it impacts both mental and physical health, this common workplace issue needs ongoing attention. In 1992, National Stress Awareness Month was established as a way to raise awareness of the causes and cures for the stress epidemic we all face. And although having a month dedicated to this type of awareness is a good start, we need to focus on stress and the impact it has all year round.
Fortunately, there are many ways to recognise the dangers of burnout and provide support for employees who suffer from it. Just a few of these include:
- Promote a work/life balance – Employees often look to their superiors for permission and guidance on how to navigate the balance between work life and personal life. Set an example for employees by prioritising mental health, and they will find it easier to follow suit.
- Allow flexible work hours – Flexible work hours are much more accessible than they used to be, and can play a major role in reducing employee stress.
“Through concentration, I can raise and lower my cholesterol at will.” While Dwight may have boasted superior cholesterol control, not everyone is as lucky. Ignoring burnout only makes it worse, and taking it seriously is the only way to support employees in the process of better self-management.
tackle the stress mindset
A stress mindset happens when people become so accustomed to their high cortisol levels that they no longer question them anymore. In fact, they might even develop a strange sort of attachment to them. But this doesn’t have to be the case.
While one could argue that much of Dwight’s behaviour actually raised his co-worker’s anxiety (remember when he “mercy” killed Angela’s beloved cat, Sprinkles?), most of the time, he had a reliably sensible approach to thinking calmly, logically and finding ways to enhance productivity.
Your office can help dismantle the stress mindset by talking about it openly during meetings, encouraging outdoor activities, and taking requests for mental health support seriously.
change the structures that increase stress
From worries at home to downsizing threats at work, there’s potential for stress, anxiety, and depression to arise from endless situations in life.
But while stress is an unavoidable aspect of life, there are ways your office structures can change in order to take a more supportive and preventative approach to burnout. For instance, work hour structures can change to create more flexibility for dealing with stress.
Adopting a hybrid work structure can also benefit employees. Having the option to work from home gives people more freedom to manage stress levels in their own time.
focus on employee mental health needs
Dwight once said: “Nothing stresses me out. Except having to seek the approval of my inferiors”. While worrying about the approval of workplace colleagues is definitely more of a Dwight-specific problem, worrying about the approval of superiors isn’t.
One of the best ways to focus on employees’ well-being needs is to offer paid time off for mental health. Sometimes, the issue that’s causing an employee’s burnout is personal, or they simply want some privacy to deal with it and recover at home.
Providing paid mental health leave is just as important as providing paid sick leave. As long as employees can justify the need for a break from work, they should have access to that option.
provide the training needed to prevent stress-related illnesses and accidents
Fake-fire induced heart attack? Stomach ulcers from your narcissistic boss? Bat got in your hair?
As an employee, you deserve to be fully equipped by management to deal with stress-related illnesses and accidents. Dwight loves a good training session (even if they lean more towards martial arts), and all managers could take a leaf out of his book when it came to his desire to educate.
Providing training and education about mental health in the workplace and around the dangers of stress, anxiety, burnout, and depression help people to recognise the symptoms in their behaviour. Plus, it creates a more supportive environment for them to deal with them in a healthy and methodical way.
bonus tip: encourAGE HEALTHY HOBBIES OUTSIDE OF WORK
One of the many things that made Dwight such an interesting character was his ability to prioritise both his personal life and his professional livelihood. Not only did put 100% into his work at Dunder Mifflin (often more), but he also made sure he had time to unwind, create, and stay active outside of the office.
From black belt judo to beet farming, Dwight was passionate about a variety of unique skills and hobbies, all of which contributed to his titanium immunity and self-confidence.
Many of us struggle to maintain a life outside of work, even if we know how many benefits it can provide. Encouragement from superiors to pursue both healthy and leisure activities outside of work not only improves employee engagement, but also helps mitigate stress levels and reduce burnout.
Because while we all understand—and crave—purpose and joy in our lives, we often forget. Or we fall prey to the pressure of career achievement and sacrifice health for so-called “progress”. Dwight is living (well, sort of) proof that you can have both.
a healthy balance equals a happier work life
When you combine Dwight’s rigorous work ethic with his respect for health and well-being, you’re left with a surprisingly balanced outlook on life.
Stress poses risks to everyone, from the newest intern to the most seasoned top executive. Adopting a more open-minded and sympathetic approach to burnout recognition and stress mitigation is essential for running a healthy business. In doing so, everyone has a chance to thrive and make the most of every day of the work week—even Mondays!
Author: Donna L. Jefferson – Copy Cruncher | Punctuation Prodigy | Aspiring Novelist
Photo credit: Wallpaper Flare