As of 2018, a fair amount of research into workplace efficiency seems to point towards firms finding the right balance between stress at work and engagement at work. The theory is that engagement leads to satisfied employees, and too much stress creates dissatisfaction. When workers have the right balance of both stress and engagement, they perform at their best.
Defining Stress at Work Versus Engagement
Stress at work seems to drive focus, attention and motivation. Employees who are dissatisfied with their work tend to challenge the groupthink process, which leads to better innovation. A lack of satisfaction among an entire company of employees can lead to complacency.
Engagement brings about a positive mindset at the office. It favors openness, creativity and collaboration among employees. Employees who are not engaged tend to be less productive and often suffer from absenteeism at a higher rate compared to employees who are engaged with their jobs. Employees who are more in-tune with their work are more likely to stay with a company.
Mixing the Two
The right balance of engagement and stress at work represents one key to keeping employees happy while also driving them to succeed. Companies shouldn't want employees to experience too much stress at once, because this can lead to anxiety and poor performance. Research suggests that engaged teams deliver higher revenues and profits for companies, and firms with enthusiastic employees tend to provide better customer service. However, when engaged, enthusiastic employees experience too much stress at work, some measure of negativity will likely arise.
Optimal performance lies somewhere in between increased attention and interest at work, or engagement, and strong anxiety. Dr, Heather Kappes, assistant professor of marketing at the London School of Economics, says the right attitude is one of teams that believe a process is going to be difficult, but that everyone can get through it. Having a contingency plan for when things go awry keeps teams on their toes, but also helps them move forward towards a goal.
Stress and anxiety impact individuals differently. For example, highly anxious teammates may need extra support in a stressful situation, whereas people more in tune with their feelings tend to be more focused and thrive on the need to improve.
Having a holistic approach and setting realistic goals can alleviate having too much stress on the job. That's why it's best to prevent overly stressful situations. In addition to clear goals, having downtime at the office during busy weeks is important. A relaxing, fun work atmosphere or after-work activities can also minimize the impact of too much stress at work.
Stress at work can be a good thing. Even people who find their ideal jobs have to deal with stress under the best of circumstances. Trying to eliminate stress is impossible, which is why it's important to remember the saying that "stressed backwards is desserts."
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