Improving Your Business By Lowering the Stress Level

The video below includes information that could be very useful to apply to one’s personal life, but I found the implications for business management more fascinating.

The video mentions specific health problems associated with stress, such as plaque in arteries, shortened telomeres, ineffective immune systems, a tendency to store fat in the abdominal area.  I was aware of these before watching the video, but I was surprised to see that stress is also associated with damage to the hippocampus region of the brain. The research was not described in detail, so I do not know how much evidence there is that stress actually causes the health problems.  It’s conceivable, for example, that people with damaged brains might be less able to cope with life and thus be under more stress than people with healthy brains. The theory that abdominal fat results from high levels of glucocorticoids in the blood was mentioned. Since stress causes the body to shut down all systems not essential for fight-or-flight, it would make sense that the blood flow to the hippocampus region would be reduced when a person is under stress (the hippocampus is responsible for consolidation of short term memory to long-term memory).

The diseases associated with chronic stress clearly result in employee absences from work due to illness.  Less obvious is the cost of stress in terms of lower productivity.

The Whitehall cohorts studies of British civil servants showed a direct correlation between lower hierachical status, stress, poor health and higher mortality.

One of the main causes of  job-related stress is lack of control.  I have found that even highly structured jobs can allow employees some control.  Here are some examples:

  • Allowing employees the maximum flexibility possible in setting their own schedules;
  • Listening carefully to employees’ suggestions for improving the business (employees often have some excellent ideas, so in addition to giving them control over their working lives, you can also improve the way you operate your business)
  • Noticing employee performance and letting them know you appreciate it
  • Basing compensation on performance

Here’s the video:

While browsing through my favorite blogs, I came across an article on a related topic, the effect of happiness on learning and productivity.  This is actually a paleo diet blog, but I never fail to learn something useful about life in general when I visit. There’s an embedded video of a Ted Talk given by Shawn Achor: