For many of us, stress seems to just be a normal part of life. At least for me, I know I’m constantly running on at least a little bit of stress - I even thrive in it. It can be a good motivator, and also a good way to evaluate how things are going in my life.
But too much stress becomes counterproductive. I start to break down, my health deteriorates, and I lose productivity. Sound familiar? Especially when it comes to work, you likely could use some help in reducing your stress so that you can perform at your best. Here’s how technology can actually help.
How work stress affects us
Whether we like to admit it or not, we spend much of our lives at work. Even those amongst us who seem to perfectly achieve work-life balance are not immune to work stress. Stress isn’t necessarily a dirty word, but stress can quickly turn debilitating in a way that has serious repercussions.
Unless you are very good at mindfulness, most of us can’t help but “take work home” with us. Even if you’re not logging back onto your computer each evening, chances are your mind will wander to a project, or an email you need to send, or a looming deadline, even when you’re not sitting at your desk from 9:00 to 6:00. When you are particularly stressed, this becomes even worse. You can wind up spending a lot of your free time dwelling on work matters, instead of enjoying your free time. In these cases, “work stress” is no longer just “work stress.” It becomes “every waking minute stress.”
Why stress management at work is so important
It might sound like a no-brainer to reduce stress. But properly managing stress at work is important for many different reasons. We likely can’t eliminate stress entirely, but how you think about stress and learn how to be self-aware about the effects of your stress, can be catalysts for prioritizing stress management.
Stress can reduce productivity
It’s a catch-22: we often feel stressed about being productive at work, but stress can actually reduce productivity. It can cause a lack of focus, and you can inadvertently enter into a panic mode that affects focus and task management.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, sometimes you just don’t even know where to begin. Your judgement about how to get started and what to prioritize can become clouded. This can lead to intense task-switching, and lack of efficiency in work execution. It can also become problematic for productivity when we lack effective boundaries; you may agree to meetings or additional tasks because you don’t want to appear slacking, when you’re already struggling.
By acknowledging stress and looking to find solutions for managing it properly, you can continue to be productive, and thus breaking a cycle of stress and productivity.
Stress can lead to burnout
When stress really becomes too much, it’s possible to just hit a wall. Burnout can manifest itself in many different ways, but it can cause you to suffer in both your mental and your physical health. In either case, you may need time to recover and take a moment to catch your breath.
Burnout can be caused by a few different types of work stress. Simply too much work, or long hours can lead to exhaustion. Work that is too difficult, above your abilities, knowledge, or skill level can be exceedingly stress inducing, since you may feel too much pressure to perform. But also, repetition in work can lead to burnout, when you are completing the same tasks over and over and the same parts of your body or mind are being overutilized.
Burnout should be taken seriously, because it can actually cause significant health issues if not properly addressed. But even if you do take time to recover from burnout, you may not have solved the underlying issue. That’s because the problem is, once you’re back in action, the work is still there and so is the potential for stress. It does no good to you, your colleagues, and your employer if you are continually at risk for burnout.
Stressful environments lead to unsatisfied employees
Some of us thrive in fast paced environments. I know that when I take a job, I’m looking for a company that works efficiently, has big goals, and places a lot of responsibility on each employee. These types of workplaces can be exciting and fun, but they also run the risk of stressed, unsatisfied employees.
Stressful work environments tend to be the ones that easily breed toxic cultures. When we are stressed, we tend to think less rationally, and more emotionally. There can be a breakdown in communication amongst teams or with managers because communication is down prioritized when trying to hit deadlines. Stress can also cause jealousy or competition amongst colleagues, when we feel the burden of work is unfairly distributed, or we are trying to show that we can perform best even under stressful conditions. These are all factors that contribute to unhappiness in the workplace.
Additionally, if there is too much pressure, and not enough perceived benefits for us personally, this can be problematic. Responsibility and opportunity that feels a bit stressful can be good because it still can lead to upskilling, learning development, and career progression. But if a workplace is simply placing high expectations on employees without the proper support or clear benefit, employees can grow resentful.
Reduce stress with technology
Looking for solutions to reduce stress before you reach the point of lost productivity, burnout, and dissatisfaction is crucial. And while it’s important to first try to identify what are your individual triggers for stress, we can all look to technology to help manage and reduce stress at work.
Use technology to make routines and improve productivity
A big contributor to work stress is disorganization or lack of focus and productivity. Thankfully, there are tons of apps and programs that can help make routines, keep your focus, and help you be more productive.
Project management and digital to-do lists like Asana, Trello, and Wunderlist can do wonders for giving you a solid overview of what needs to be done, and in what stage of production a project is. You can start each day by looking at what is on your urgent to-do list, and make a methodology for prioritization, view what needs input from colleagues or a superior, or what is on the horizon that you should begin thinking about. This can reduce stress, because you eliminate the feeling of “I’m forgetting something,” you can get a more accurate read on what you’re actually handling (which can be inflated in your head), and you can make a better plan of action for tackling tasks.
Other types of productivity tools make things like collaboration and communication easier and more transparent. When working with others or getting input on work no longer feels like a burden or an extra hassle, stress can be reduced significantly. Tools like Slack, Basecamp, and Google Drive or Dropbox make sharing, conversations, and change and version tracking much easier.
Unfortunately when we start to get stressed and lose productivity, we tend to lose awareness about time. Often, in knowing how to deal with stress at work, it can be crucial that you are managing your time effectively. Tools for being aware of your time, or staying productive with your time, may be your best option. Toggl can help you to literally track your time to ensure you aren’t taking up too much of your day or most productive hours to do menial or repetitive tasks, or that you are staying timely for a customer or deadline. If you need to break up your day to be more productive, use the Pomodoro app to work in sprints.
The key to using productivity technology, however, is diligence. You need to be routine about using it, and ensuring you are inputting all the details properly, moving tasks along as you complete phases, and are using the tools daily. If you are only half-in on using technology to improve productivity, it can actually be counterproductive to reducing stress.
Use technology for your health
While “self-care” seems to be the buzzword of the day, it’s with good reason. Taking care of yourself - mind, body, and soul - can be crucial for stress relief and happiness, at work or at home. You can also use technology in order to be your healthiest self, in a few different ways.
We now have the technology to literally monitor our health for us. Smart watches like the Apple Watch, or devices such as FitBit and Garmin can track our activity, heart rate, and sleep cycles. This can at least give you an indication of how you’re doing when it comes to stress and health. Are you getting enough activity or walking enough? Do you get enough sleep? How often each day does your heart rate spike? Using wearable tech to help you to become aware of the factors of your daily life that can contribute to unhealthiness is the first step in taking action.
Stress relief apps
For both smart watches and mobile phones, there are a plethora of apps that can help to reduce stress. Apps like The Breathing App can help you to focus on the physiological practice of breathing to rebalance and reduce anxiety, and calming sound apps like Mindwell use solfeggio frequencies and isochronic tones to reduce stress.
If you want to give mindfulness and meditation a go, there are a countless number of apps available depending on your needs. 10% Happier is an app for those on the go and who may be busy and/or skeptical about meditation, and Simple Habit focuses on daily stress management techniques that can ease symptoms of burnout.
Use technology mindfulness
One of the best things you can do with technology for stress relief, however, doesn’t come in the form of a cool or sleek software platform. Really what it comes down to is tech mindfulness, or rather thinking about how, and how much, you are actually using technology.
It’s become all too easy to be distracted by our phones and notifications that buzz constantly, or develop stress that can actually be caused by being always available and always connected. When you start to become more aware about how you are using technology, and think about it more intentionally, it can become your friend in reducing stress.
Most smart phones now have trackers for how much “screen time” you are utilizing each day, and on what. Check to see if you are using social media for several hours. This can be detrimental to your stress levels. If you need help staying distraction-free, use apps like Freedom that can allow you to turn on and off your access to certain apps on your phone or programs on your computer. Set hours to limit social media or other distractions during work time, and set hours to limit your work email while you’re out with friends or with family. You can’t be tempted to check if it’s just simply not available.
The risk of stress in today’s working culture is high. It’s problematic for a few reasons, but most of all, being that it can bleed into our everyday life, lead to poor health and burnout, and dissatisfaction with our jobs and work life balance. Use technology to help you monitor your stress, use tools for better project management and productivity, and take care of your overall well being. For more information on leveraging your technology consider investing in IT recruiting and staffing.
How CloudApp can help you reduce stress at work
Since CloudApp is both a productivity and collaboration tool, it can be a go-to solution for making work easier, and reducing stress in the workplace. Make your processes more streamlined, quickly and easily share screen recordings and annotated pictures and videos with your colleagues, and be more efficient in tasks from everything from new employee onboarding, to customer experience execution. CloudApp takes the challenges out of feeling like there is too much to do with too little time.
With CloudApp you can:
1. Skip that meeting - Rather than wasting your time and the time of your co-workers or clients, showcase your thoughts by recording a quick video of your screen and sending it.
2. Improve collaboration - Quickly send over a few options with clear instructions to avoid unnecessary back-and-forth.
3. Share feedback immediately - CloudApp makes it easy to capture and share thoughts.
Learn more about CloudApp for productivity.