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Some companies care about workplace stress and some don’t. On the positive side of the spectrum are companies which provide free meals, a swimming spa, gym, child care, nap rooms, and free doctors on site. On the negative side are companies which deny employees rest or lunch breaks, and pay them for only one minute of work instead of one day if they forget to punch the time clock at the end of their shift. Somewhere between these two extremes is the company you work for. Hopefully it’s much closer to the positive side.

“My job makes me sick”  is more true than the person who utters it may even realize.  Studies show stress in the workplace causes anxiety, irritability, tiredness, fatigue, insomnia, depression, headaches, tardiness, absenteeism, and accidents.  The American Institute of Stress estimates that American companies are losing $300 billion a year in poor performance, absenteeism and health costs due to workplace  stress. There are many psychological and environmental sources of workplace stress. 

Environmental Sources of Workplace Stress
Applying a combination of feng shui and green design can help reduce environmental workplace stress. Here are some typical problems.

Bad lighting - Bad lighting causes eye strain and headaches.  Natural daylight and indirect lighting  are healthier.  Light controls and task lighting in each worker’s personal space allow workers to control their own lighting. 

Poor ventilation - Increasing fresh air intake, improving air filtration and ventilation effectiveness, using green plants, and using materials and finishes that minimize volatile organic compound off-gassing create a healthier environment. Carbon dioxide sensors can be used to detect when more air is needed. Better indoor air quality results in greater productivity because of fewer occupant sick days.

Noise - Ringing phones, workers conversing by your desk, people yelling to each other at different ends of the office, people talking loudly on the phone.  Annoying noise can be reduced by using sound absorbing wall panels,  noise canceling headphones, ear buds,  Ipods,  white noise machines, and chatter blocking computer programs.

Odors - Staff members who wear too much cologne or perfume can create an unpleasant environment.  A scent-free office policy will solve that  issue.  Disposing food wrappers and food containers in the break room garbage and not in personal trash cans can reduce food odor.  The office microwave becomes a big odor problem when fish or other strong smelling foods are heated.  

EMF exposure - Electromagnetic frequencies from personal computer towers, crt monitors, transformer plugs, power strips, and other equipment reduce the body's production of melatonin, the hormone which regulates mood and sleep.  Too much emf exposure can cause insomnia, depression and mood swings.

Clutter - Clutter is eye noise.  It’s hard to concentrate in a mess.  Clutter makes the chi flow slow down and get stuck which can make you feel stuck or depressed at work.  Make an effort to keep it to a minimum.  ( A cluttered office is like a hairy swimmer )

Dreary Workspace:  You are not your job. You have a life outside of the company.  Personalize your workspace with pictures of the people and pets you love, and other things that make you happy. When you are stressed out, you can use these things to help you take a moment to focus on something positive.

Negative Flying Stars - A flying star feng shui analysis will help you pinpoint stressful and negative energies in the building which are creating problems for personnel.  Creating A Haven includes the flying star natal charts of all buildings built between 1924 and 2024, along with advice on cures you can use to neutralize the negative energies and enhance positive energies. This is the only book in print that includes both the natal charts and the cures needed for all buildings built in this 100 year span. Offices can also use this information.

Awkward seating - Sitting in a cubicle with your back exposed makes work more stressful. When you cannot see what is going on behind you, you are not as relaxed. Turning your chair to position your back to a wall in the cubicle or using a small mirror so you can see behind your back will help you be more relaxed.

Ergonomics and Stress  - Ergonomic design for the workplace maximizes productivity by reducing operator fatigue and discomfort. Ergonomics makes it easier for workers to do their job, which can decrease stress. The more efficient a worker is, the more productive they are.   25 Ways Ergonomics Can Save You Money (PDF)

Broken equipment - A desk drawer that sticks, a stapler that gnarls staples, a copier that constantly jams.  Things that don't work create obstacles and add stress.

Psychological Sources of Workplace Stress
Having too much work is as stressful as having too little work.  Not feeling in control, not being recognized or feeling unappreciated.  Career and job ambiguity. Lack of communication. Unclear company direction and policies.  Feeling like you’re on a treadmill.  Not feeling like you belong. Many workers have no choice but to stay put where they are because they have to keep the health insurance the company provides.  That creates a feeling of helplessness.  And then there’s the economy.  Job insecurity increases stress when companies aren’t making money and may have to make job cuts. 

The World Health Organization is a great resource for employers and employees with information on how to identify sources of stress and reduce stress.   Another good resource is the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness.  NIOSH provides research, information, education, and training in the field of occupational safety and health.

Get Organized to Reduce Stress
Being organized means being in control. When you feel in control, you feel less stressed.  The average desk worker spends 3 hours a week “looking” for things.  Professionals spend 5-15% of their time reading information, but up to 50% looking for it.
    Organize your workspace.  Have a place for everything and keep everything in its place. End your day straightening your desk so you can start your next workday with an organized workspace.
    Organize your day.  Start or end your day with a 5-10 minute planning session for that or the next days work.  Determine your priorities with a master “to do” list.  Break up bigger jobs into smaller manageable parts. 

Less workplace stress translates into higher productivity and profits. Identifying the sources of stress in your workplace is the first step towards making your business healthier and more profitable.

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