21 Fun Stress Releases and How to Negotiate them
Your boss should be paying for you to have some fun destressing. It’s your job to persuade them, use these negotiation secrets to get them to say “Yes”.
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If you work in IT, and you’re not experiencing stress on the job, consider yourself lucky – very lucky. In a 2006 stress survey, 97% of people working in IT reported that they experienced on the job stress – not just occasionally – but on a daily basis. Medical professionals who frequently experience trauma and death among patients, had the next highest stress.
Stress leads to physical conditions including obesity, diabetes, ulcers, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease (read heart attacks), migraines and more. This kind of stress will drive almost anyone to consume countless doughnuts / potato crisps / beer / Coke / Pepsi. This tends to make the situation worse – but may seem like it is helping at the time. It’s the kind of stress you feel as you wait for your officemate to discover the can of exploding nuts you planted in the company kitchen. That’s right – stress can be fun.
So how close are you to telling your boss or an irritating colleague, what you really think of them?
Take this quick 12 question quiz to find out:
- I start dreading going to work on Sunday evenings
- I sometimes skip work because I don’t want to be there
- Co-workers often make me angry/frustrated
- I frequently feel worn out and run down
- I have trouble sleeping
- After work I feel I deserve a drink
- I have less energy than I once did
- Concentration and focus is sometimes difficult due to daydreaming
- I am sometimes uncharacteristically forgetful
- Work is uninteresting or no longer challenging to me
- I make it through most days by thinking about the future, or my hobbies
- I watch the clock waiting for the end of the day
If you answered “Yes” to 3 or more of these statements, you’re likely experiencing unhealthy job stress.
By now you may be thinking “Great – so what? All this damn article has proven is that I am stressed out.” Point well taken, but please don’t throw that cup of coffee at your monitor just yet. Instead let us suggest 21 strategies for reducing your stress, and then share a few ace cards on negotiating with your employer. Keep in mind that you’re unlikely to get all of these stress busting gems paid for by your employer. So choose wisely:
- Computer Games. Instead of having to worry about the boss looking over your shoulder, when you’re sneaking in a few minutes on your favourite game, get the entire office networked on the same game and play it as a lunch or after hours event.
- Massage. Our bodies have evolved for agile hunting – not hunching over a computer. So it’s no small wonder that muscles get tired. Here’s a stress relief technique that should be completely reasonable for your employer to pay for. In fact, do a good deed for the whole IT department or office, by negotiating to have a massage day on the company… What kind of massage? There are many different types. Perhaps the best massage for stress relief is a Japanese form called Shiatsu. This massage works on energy meridians and is a whole body massage. Another popular choice is remedial therapeutic massage. Yes, these generally hurt the first few times, but it’s worth getting those computer induced knots out of your neck and back. If your boss is too cheap to undo the damage the company’s pc’s have dealt out, and you want to save money – call up a local massage school to find out how much their trainees charge for massages. These are usually done with a trainer present, and the quality can be very good. Some charge as little as $20.
- Essential Oils. It turns out that some pleasurable scents are especially relaxing. And hey if you have a smelly office co-worker, these can do double duty. So what scents are best for relieving stress? Try bergamot, chamomile, clary sage, cypress, frankincense, geranium, juniper, lavender, melissa or sandalwood. Buying an inexpensive essential oil Fan Diffuser can be a great long term investment.
- Yoga. Not for everyone, but for those who enjoy this kind of thing, yoga stretches is a great way to increase flexibility and strength, while reducing stress. Your company could have a yoga instructor come to the office, a couple of times a week. Yogic deep breathing is a great way to increase oxygen, essential to flushing out toxins.
- Music. Maybe you already listen to music at your desk, but why not negotiate for some really good headphones or some new cd’s. At the very least if this is currently banned in the office, negotiate to get it un-banned. There’s good evidence that music, whatever type you find relaxing, is good for stress relief.
- Late Mornings. If you don’t already have flexible hours, negotiate to start ninety minutes late once a week. Imagine the pleasure of sitting sipping a cup of tea or coffee while everyone else battles through peak hour traffic. (Of course we would recommend a caffeine free cup)
- Sunshine alert. Not all of us are lucky enough to live where sun is a constant. It is amazing how mood elevating it can be for your employer to call a sunshine alert. The first time the sun shines after 3 days of grey clouds or rain have everyone go outside to do cartwheels and handstands for a few minutes. You could also offer Yoga (Strategy 4), stretching or Tai Chi.
- Games. Yes that’s right, we think your employer should pay for you to play games. In fact, we suggest that they create a game chest. So what are the best types of games to relieve stress? Games that get you up out of your chair and away from in front of the computer screen. Games that allow you to get lost in them, that demand focus and concentration. Board games like chess can be great. Even better though, would be to grab a Frisbee and take it outside where you can move around. Or, negotiate a basketball hoop at one end of the company parking lot.
- Change Your Environment. Is your office dingy, or lit by harsh fluorescents? Chances are that your environment is contributing to your stress. Bring it up with your boss and negotiate for full spectrum light bulbs. Add plants to your cubicle (plants are great listeners).
- Comedy Breaks. Don’t kick stress out of your life, laugh it out. Negotiate a designated comedy break to watch “The Office” at the office, or bring in a recording of Steven Colbert. Check out these Business Negotiation Cartoons or subscribe to Dilbert Cartoons .
- Ergonomics. Over time your posture and positioning can result in more than just carpal tunnel syndrome. Read up on how your keyboard, chair, phone, papers and files, monitor, desk mouse can all add up to leaving the office relaxed or tight. Either work through an office ergonomics checklist or have your boss bring in an ergonomics specialist to make recommendations. The return on the initial investment will come through increased productivity, less time off sick and lowered risk of the company being sued for saying “no” to this type of initiative (yes, it does happen).
- Eat A Nutritious and Delicious Diet. Does this mean eat a boring diet filled with bland food, that leaves you wanting something tasty? No way. Instead, eat delicious foods like blueberries, strawberries, and melons. If you like fish, eat more salmon fillets, tuna steaks, and sushi. If you can, make sure that your fish came from the wild and not from a fish farm. When you cook, use olive or canola seed oil instead of vegetable oil. You’ll be increasing your antioxidants and lowering your fat intake.
- Exercise. If there’s an unused space in your workplace, why not convince your employer to turn it into an exercise gym? The productivity and long term health benefits will more than pay for the cost of the equipment. Alternatively negotiate for a subsidy on your gym fees. At the very least, organise a stretch break – there’s almost always someone who knows a lot of stretching techniques.
- Good Deeds. That’s right; practising random acts of kindness reduces your stress. For even greater stress relief, practice random acts of kindness anonymously. This gets a little difficult when you’re walking around with a big smile on your face, but smiling also turns out to be good for stress relief. Write a compliment on a post-it note, and leave hide it somewhere you know the person will discover it. Do someone’s coffee/tea or lunch trip for them. Another upside is that the law of reciprocation will make them want to repay you.
- Sleep. Sleep on the job? Yes! Only for 30-60 minutes. If you’re employer questions this one, just remind him or her that Einstein used to catnap all day long, and many Japanese companies it’s acceptable to sleep during business meetings. The Spanish call it a “Siesta”. Far from decreasing your productivity, a little sleep time can be an incredible boost. If it is impossible to get a power-nap in at work, you should take a look at how much sleep you are getting, and make sure it is enough to feel rested and relaxed. For the best stress management, attempt to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
- Meditate. Not ready to start power-napping on the job? Meditation is just as good. Try and quiet your mind for just five minutes. It’s easy to say, but a real challenge to achieve in the early days. So to start, focus on your breathing by becoming aware of every inhalation and exhalation during your meditation. If your company has a prayer or relaxation room, then your task will be that much easier to achieve.
- Work from Home. Even if your job won’t allow you to work from home all the time, your employer may be willing to negotiate for a couple of days a week, or some similar arrangement. Your employer may be pleasantly surprised by how much you can get done, when you don’t have constant interruptions.
- Go-karting or Paintball War games. If it has been a while since you last ripped around the track in one of these little machines, you may have forgotten just how much fun they can be. If your boss lives in the real world and is aware of how little gets done late on Friday afternoons, she or he may realise that a far better use of this time, would be to let the whole office go go-karting together. If you go with the team, then this can be a great teambuilding exercise, that will result in greater productivity in the longer run.
- Watch a Movie. Movies can transport you out of a stressful situation, into another world. If your office has a good screen or projector then use the training or board room and have everyone join in. Bring popcorn and order in a meal.
- Set Realistic Goals. Are your goals achievable? Do you have control and authority to deliver on them? Too many companies set ‘Stretch Targets’ for their staff, without thinking through the stress they’re causing by doing so. Ensure that you don’t agree to goals that you don’t think you can achieve. Also useful is to agree a mechanism that flexes or adjusts your goals should other people or circumstances cause you to fall short of the mark.
- Take a Vacation. The best stress relief vacation is the one that brings you the most pleasure. If you want a longer vacation than your company allows, see if you can negotiate for some unpaid leave. Ask if your employer will allow a paid vacation if you support a good cause – like teaching kids in the developing world. Remember to leave yourself an extra day at the end before you need to go back into work. This will ensure you return refreshed and not stressed. If you can, leave the laptop and blackberry in the office.
Negotiating Your Way Out of Stress
Maybe you’re thinking some of the above sounds great, but there’s not a snowballs chance in the office microwave that your employer is going to go for any of them. Don’t be so sure. First strike number one off the list for discussion – that’ll have to be taken up on your own time (and within your own budget). That said, whether or not your employer goes for most of the rest, may depend more on your ability to communicate than anything else. Here are a few pointers for getting what you want.
Timing is Key
Timing is crucial, but there are more opportunities than you might think. The next time the company completes a big project and there’s a celebratory mood, slip in a request when the boss is feeling good. On the other hand, if that feeling of stress in the office is palpable to you, chances are your employer is feeling it too. This can be a great time to say, “Hey you know I’ve noticed everyone seems kind of stressed out, what do you think about…?”
Provide a solution to their problem. Lots of times when things get stressful, employees abandon ship, hoping for calmer waters elsewhere. If you’re among those who are staying at your stressful job, mention that you think doing x, y and z, could really help morale and employee retention.
Be prepared for excuses. If your suggestions are met with excuses about company policy, ask for the rationale behind those policies. Ask if they have taken a look at the other side of the coin, and be prepared to present your point of view. If all else fails, and your employer wants you to grit your teeth and bear it, without helping out with relatively inexpensive stress relief plans, then perhaps it’s time to find another job. We suggest you take a look through this heavy-weight article: Salary Negotiation: 32 Job Pay Tips.
Armed for Battle
Like your job and colleagues, and want to make a stronger case for de-stressing your workplace? We’ve gathered some facts to arm you, for those lame excuse managers.
On-the-job stress leads to poor morale, increased absenteeism, higher staff turnover, reduced productivity, customer complaints, poor performance, and even violence. You would think that the fact stress costs U.S. businesses over $300 billion dollars per year, would be enough for most employers to think about how to reduce on-the-job stress. (These figures are hard to measure and are on the low end, in reality it’s probably a lot higher).
So what does your stress cost your employer? That depends on how ugly you get when you’re stressed out and what you do about it. Do you miss a few days work that you wouldn’t have otherwise? You’d probably be on the low end of employee costs racked up due to stress; estimated to be somewhere around $2,700 per year. Or are you the employee who, when no one is looking “accidentally” spills a cup of coffee over the photocopier. Now this kind of ‘employee stress’ is likely to be on the upper end of the employee stress cost range estimated at around $7,500 per year.
Your Negotiation Strategy
We promised to advise you how to pull it off. Of course you fist need to talk with your colleagues to get the core influencers and majority sold on these ideas. We suggest you plan your strategy carefully by starting high, and allowing them to negotiate you downwards – known as negotiating concessions. So for example:
- Rather than asking to be allowed to play your mp3’s using headphones while working, ask to have the whole building polled to see whether they would like to have the company put a speaker system into each office. When they turn you down, now is your chance to reduce your request (concede) to just wearing earphones.
- Ask to be allowed to work from home 3 days per week, and concede down to 1 day.
These types of concessions are based on our in-built human tendency to want to reciprocate.
To do a platinum job of persuading your boss, prepare using a whole brain approach.
- IT managers are usually strong on logic, facts, reason, analysis and the bottom line profit.
- HR, Sales, Marketing and Trainers are usually concerned with group consensus, following policies and keeping everyone happy.
- Directorate and entrepreneurial types are usually interested in trying something new to get better results in the future, especially if it has a compelling “Why” factor behind it that achieves their dream or vision.
- Administrative types (sometimes HR) and many Project Managers are often focussed on preserving the status quo, avoiding and fixing problems, and getting work done.
So choose your allies carefully, and prepare by emphasising the facts that get them most excited.
Think about Number 1
Finally, when negotiating benefits to reduce stress, keep in mind that you aren’t trying to get one over on your employer. The reality is, that they are going to be paying for your stress and that of your co-workers, in one way or another. It’s better for all involved if they meet this challenge in a positive way. Ultimately if your employer just can’t see the benefits, don’t let that stop you from working your way down the list and implementing as many of these techniques as it takes to stay sane.