Health

7 Ways Companies Fall Short on Stress Management

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Being human is awesome. We’re technologically advanced (invented Netflix), at the top of the food chain (hello, ice cream), and have built dynamic societies (mega malls). But it also means we deal with a few inherent downsides. Notably, stress.

Whether you’re a parent, plumber, or astronaut, stress is an unavoidable part of life. Although we don’t typically use our animal instincts for physical survival anymore, the fight or flight response is ever present. Modern stressors have taken on a new and widespread fangless form. Everyday “dangers” now include navigating complex social dynamics and inequalities, maintaining physical and mental well-being, career progression, relationships, political uncertainty & presidential tweets, financial instability, 24/7 connectivity, and work-life balance, just to name a few. Stress has seeped into so many aspects of our lives that the World Health Organization calls it the great “health epidemic of the 21st century”.

But one culprit exceeds the rest. If you’re like most American adults, work is far and away the leading cause of stress in your life. Unlike the traditional 9–5 desk job of generations past, we are now expected to be connected 24/7, work longer hours without extra compensation, make tight deadlines with fewer resources, compete for promotions, and fear layoffs and reorganization — all while finding passion and meaning in what we do. Sound familiar?

Stress derived from work is obviously not a new phenomenon, but over the past 20 years there has been a massive increase across the U.S. and modern workplace statistics reveal that:

  • 80% of workers feel stress on the job and nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress.
  • 42% say their co-workers need help with stress management.
  • Work-related stress costs U.S. businesses $300 billion a year due to presenteeism, absenteeism, turnover, and healthcare costs.
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Since most people work, and work is our greatest stressor, the workplace environment presents a prime opportunity to learn how to effectively manage and cope with our stress. Yet only 1 out of every 6 working adults consider their organization’s stress management programs adequateAccepting stress as “just another part of the job” is clearly costing us a lot across the board. So why aren’t we doing a better job of managing stress in the workplace?

  1. Misconceptions about Stress — Stress is not something that you can simply get rid of. It’s an inherent property of human nature but it can be managed like other emotional responses. While short-term stress can be beneficial for your health, prolonged or chronic stress, in the form of multitasking, information overload, decision making, and social strife, has adverse effects — both mentally and physically. Over time, stress is scientifically shown to lower immune health, release harmful chemical reactions that weaken physiological health, and is directly linked to diabetes, obesity, and poor cognitive performance.
  2. Mental Health Stigma — It’s fair to say that most people do not fully understand the legitimate emotional, mental, and even physical impacts that stress can have. People with stress-related mental health issues face widespread discrimination in social environments, as well as ‘self-stigma’, especially in the workplace. Showing signs of anxiety, depression, and extreme stress is discouraged at work because it often leads to even more stressful situations, such as feeling disconnected from the team, performance review, and receiving negative attention; potentially hurting your career or even resulting in losing your job.
  3. Cost and Measurement — Stress reduction is relatively hard to measure, so it’s equally hard to justify spending money on it. Many organizations and individuals prefer to invest in wellness programs that quantify physical health, or financial stability, which can be clearly charted since measuring steps taken or money saved is easier than quantifying a 5% reduction in chronic stress levels.
  4. Business Sense — Many stress management solutions are viewed as counterintuitive to traditional business ideologies — suggesting that employees work less, disconnect from email and company communication channels, receive higher salaries, and take more time off can be hard for businesses to digest and reconcile without guaranteed returns.
  5. Low Priority — Oftentimes, corporate wellness programs place a large emphasis on physical health and developing social culture, while overlooking mental well-being. Organizations prefer to implement programs that look good on paper, such as a health challenge that can be easily measured with wearable devices, or a corporate event to bolster social connection that can be documented. Understanding the positive link between effectively managing stress and other health categories, such as physical health and social connection, will help to prioritize holistic stress management programs for individuals and organizations alike.
  6. Lack of Support — Practices such as mindfulness and meditation to manage stress are often viewed with skepticism and can seem daunting to start and maintain without guidance and social support. Understanding how effective and simple it is to promote and adopt stress management habits is a key challenge of both employers and employees. Recognizing a colleague’s efforts to manage their stress is a great way to validate what they are doing and learn about new techniques and resources.
  7. Data Privacy — Understanding how stress impacts individuals and organizations requires measurement and employee data. But collecting information on people’s mental states and stress levels is invasive and can be used against employees if it’s mismanaged. Making sure that personal health information (PHI) collected remains anonymous, doesn’t negatively influence employer-employee decisions, and is only being used to support stress management, are key challenges of companies that create their own stress care programs.

Understanding what causes stress and how to best manage it is a required skillset of top performers and organizationsIn order to accomplish this, we need more robust individual and company-based stress management programs and environments. As employees, we should regularly self evaluate our stress levels and understand what coping methods work best for certain scenarios. As employers, we need to open the doors for unbiased conversation about stress and mental health, provide resources and support, and encourage teams to develop skills to handle stressful situations, both professionally and personally.

A good first step is seeing how your company currently stacks up when it comes to mental wellness. Check out your company’s Psocratic Wellness Score here.


Psocratic is a proactive behavioral health platform on a mission to advance workplace culture and wellness. Schedule a demo or say hello: info@psocratic.com 🙌

The Art of Data Teams: Exploring the Relationship Between Qualitative and Quantitative Thinkers

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The best data teams are the ones that tell the most insightful stories. But what characterizes a good versus poor data team? I’ve found — from my 15 years of experience working with data— that it always boils down to the relationship between qualitative and quantitative team members and how they complement each other.

First, what do I mean by qualitative and quantitative?

Generally, the qualitative thinker is visually and verbally gifted and has the business chops to understand and explain the shifting groundwork of any given industry. They are likely managers or leaders, deal with bigger picture challenges, and are client facing.

On the other hand are quantitative individuals. These are the analytical thinkers — the facts and figures miners — and they can explain why certain phenomena occur with models, regressions, and evidence supported by data big and small. While they can make sense of the numbers, they oftentimes lack the business savvy and experience to relate it back to the bigger picture, or to clearly explain how their findings impact business trends.

Together, they make the modern data team. Part analytical wizard and part storyteller, equipped to make sense of complex systems with data-powered narrative. Their effectiveness depends on how the team is structured, leading to reports that are either mind-blowingly insightful, have a few interesting takeaways here and there, or are total data mush.

I am a mathematician and qualitative thinker by trade and have worked on successful, lackluster, and subpar data teams across various organizations. While I was at Gartner, an IT research and advisory firm, I learned something really interesting about what defines a good vs. mediocre vs. poor data team, and how to work with a qualitative teammate to create insightful reports quickly.

At Gartner, our immediate data team consisted of only two of us; myself on the quant-side, and my boss as the qualitative leader. We were tasked with advising CTO’s and IT managers on how to attribute IT spending and personnel back to the bottom line impact of the overall business. Working on-site, my qual-minded boss would piece together a story of what was happening at a high level and where the bottom line could likely be improved with his strong business chops. He would then articulate this message to me and I would work to gather the data to support or negate his assumptions. With our story complete, we would present to CTO’s and tech managers on ways to optimize their IT businesses. We soon became so adept at the job that we were providing the services of other 10 person teams.

Initially, we figured our high performance was the product of our individual quant and qual strengths but this was not the case. What actually allowed us to outcompete most every team was my understanding of storytelling and business themes, partnered with his comprehension of analytics and data tools. For example, when we were compiling a client report, he knew just enough about analytics, and what was possible, to structure our story with missing quantitative arguments that I could quickly generate. He trusted that I had the business wherewithal to gather the relevant data and display it in a way that would support the story he was crafting and appeal to our client’s interests. In effect, we were simultaneously creating the same storyline — he laid out the structure, and I filled in the missing pieces with the right data, days and weeks before our competitors could.

This mutual understanding also allowed us to hold each other accountable without wasting time. He would constantly challenge my approach and ask why I did things a certain way, where the data came from, how it was presented, if there were any missing variables, how it supported or negated the story we were telling, etc. On the other hand, I would challenge his assumptions with data evidence and course correct his pitch to the client if my analysis conveyed a different narrative.

Essentially, we found the ‘Goldilocks’ principal of overlapping skillsets: “not too much, not too little, but just right. We were not too different-minded to make it difficult to communicate, nor did we overlap to the extent where we were stepping on each other’s toes.

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After realizing the effectiveness of this team dynamic firsthand, I started to incorporate it into my company, Psocratic. We started by hiring two quant-minded employees with business chops and partnered them with our qualitative storyteller, who understood analytics, to work on a handful of projects. In one week, we identified three major initiatives to benefit the company. Three months after that, we had created two reports that became core pillars of Psocratic, and built a tool that we used to validate our entire model; all of this 4 months ahead of schedule!

From there we took this approach one step further and incorporated it into our actual well-being and leadership product. We do this by providing storylines for individuals, teams, and organizations that are fueled by quantitative reasoning. For example, each user and client of our platform is provided with a compelling storyline that is supported with data to quantify their mental health or human capital statistics.

In the future, we plan to play around with this model a bit. Hiring multiple quantitative teammates and storytelling types, that care about our overall mission of improving mental health, and putting them into two person teams on a rotating basis. Constant circulation will allow for more access and exposure with other teammates to help spread skills and increase empathetic thinking. We will obviously be crafting a data-supported narrative along the way.


Psocratic is a proactive behavioral health platform on a mission to advance workplace culture and wellness. Schedule a demo or say hello: info@psocratic.com 🙌

The Psocratic Index: Measuring Employee Wellness vs. Profitability

At Psocratic, we believe happier, healthier employees can increase your profits — so much so that we built our business on it! But how can you tell if your company is on the right track?

By measuring company culture, pay, leadership, and other personnel factors against profits and revenue, we’ve created The Psocratic Index, an interactive proprietary tool that can help companies understand where they fall within their industry.

Click here to explore The Psocratic Index to see where your company stands.

Don’t see your company or industry? We would love to add you to our growing index, contact us at info@psocratic.com for more information.


How did we conduct this research? We compiled employee data taken from the top 1,500 companies on the NYSE, and explored trends within and across major industries. The wellness score on the Y-axis is the combination of employee data covering 5 company specific themes — culture, fair pay, career path, company leadership, and work-life balance — evaluated on a 0-5 point scale. Gross profit per employee is provided in public statements and annual reports. More questions? Reach out, and we’re happy to explain more! info@psocratic.com

Baby Boomers vs. Millennials: Polar Opposites or the Perfect Workplace Complement?

The stereotypes of baby boomers and millennials is a well worn topic. Steady boomers are portrayed as rigid in their ways, always a few steps behind with technology, and constantly saying “back when I…(didn’t have a cell phone, or, had to do it by hand)” to make a point to younger ears. On the other hand, offbeat millennials are widely thought to be social media crazed narcissists, resistant to hierarchy, and eternally uncertain about their career decisions.

Not only are these perceptions short-sighted, they’re fracturing our workplaces. Both generations have valuable skills and traits that complement the other. The big question is — how do we strengthen and encourage this relationship in the quickly changing office landscape?

Boomers

Mass retirement might be around the corner, but baby boomers still comprise 40% of the workforce and are poised to continue working well past the previous retirement age of 60. They may not be the priority of recruitment in the modern workplace, but they have the resources and knowhow to shape its future — at the end of the day, boomers hold 80% of the U.S.’s personal net worth and have ~$30 trillion to pass down in the next 20 years.

Despite comprising such a large segment of the workforce and holding most of the wealth, the rapid adoption of dynamic team structures, dependency on tech, and peer-to-peer management styles used to attract millennials have marginalized older generations and radically changed job requirements, forcing an entire generation to learn new skills or fear obsolescence. This new work landscape has cast boomers as stubbornly out of touch, ultimately creating the lackluster stereotype that comes to mind.

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However, this cultural shift should not be viewed as an out with the old & in with the new storyline. Despite a shift toward millennial-oriented workplaces, older employees have remained up-to-date with industry trends and technologies and have established themselves as innovative leaders in the modern work environment. This is to be expected from the best-educated, most highly skilled work demographic in U.S. history that institutionalized equal pay, affirmative action, progressive health and retirement benefits, and constitutes more than half of all current managers.

To sum it up — boomers have the experience, positioning, and the capital that millennials need to succeed. As this generational shift picks up speed, boomers will pass down their experience, resources, and capital to younger generations that will fill their void post-retirement. Herein lies the challenge: How do we ensure that younger generations are receiving the best advice and support to become the leaders our workforce will soon desperately need?

Millennials

At the heart of the ‘generational divide’ on the millennial side are cliched depictions of millennial work ideologies, mostly championed by older generations. Although the millennial worker often expects a ‘progressive’ workplace culture where each employee is heard and acknowledged, they do not assume this to be simply achieved with happy hours, kickball teams, and lounge room decor. At a deeper level, they desire workplaces that are tech-forward, promote their personal development and health, and emphasize transparent, direct, and honest communication. They expect progress to originate from fair and just management practices, corporate flexibility, and, like the boomers before them, want to be the generation that solves large-scale global issues.

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Contrary to splashy headlines, these desires do not translate to reduced output and a poor work ethic. Millennials have made their true intentions known by making systems more efficient through smarter design, and leveraging technology and teamwork to speed up processes and drive progress. This mindset, coupled with the fact that millennials will soon constitute the largest demographic to ever enter the workforce, is a reassuring sign for what’s to come.

Ditching the Stereotypes

So, how do we dissolve these conflicting stereotypes and strengthen ties between the two generations?

Cultivating workplaces where employees of different ages are equally engaged—inspired even— is the goal. In order to achieve this, companies must find ways to celebrate cultural differences across age groups, instead of trying to synthesize a new homogenous culture altogether. There are a range of viable solutions to consider, like restructuring team dynamics, encouraging personal skill growth and skill sharing, and engaging employees across age-groups in various on and off-site social events.

Another emerging trend is to challenge employees individually and in small groups to become more open-minded and empathetic towards colleagues from different generations. With advancements in personalized feedback platforms (wearables, health apps, and digital tools) it’s possible to receive real-time information on behavioral strengths and weaknesses and measure how they change over time. For example, maybe you subconsciously discredit older employees because you think they are uncreative, or withhold certain projects from a younger colleague because of age-related trust issues. No matter how open-minded someone is, biases exist for everyone and continuous and personal feedback could help put things in perspective.

Companies have caught on and are exploring ways to generate this quantifiable data to help their employees become more mindful by emphasizing how they fit into the bigger picture and why their outlook matters. Digital tools, such as employee engagement analytics, are being used to:

1. Provide managers with a real-time company pulse by collecting and evaluating employee data and sentiment.

2. Provide measurable insights into key challenges that can be used to devise company-specific strategies to strengthen culture across age gaps.

3. Engage employees to drive healthy habits and create strong brand ambassadorship.

These digital tools are part of a comprehensive solution, and they can provide the foundation to make steps in the right direction. By combining more employee data, identifying company cultural concerns, and improving behavioral health at an individual scale, organizations can ensure that they are driving collaboration and actually benefitting from their age diversity to increase productivity and strengthen company culture.

The occasional happy hour can’t hurt either :)


Psocratic is a proactive behavioral health platform on a mission to advance workplace culture and wellness. Schedule a demo or say hello: info@psocratic.com 🙌