What employees and employers can do against permanent excessive demand

Some alarming news made the rounds in February: Nearly half of all German employees have the feeling that workplace stress has increased over the past two years. The “2012 Stress Report” published by the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin – BAuA) reports that around 50 percent of workers feel they are under strong date and performance pressure. By definition, stress is created when there is an imbalance between the demands that a person perceives are placed on him and his resources/skills for meeting them. If he believes his resources to be sufficient, stress can be productive. He feels challenged and does everything in his power to solve the situation. If, on the other hand, he feels his resources are not enough, stress can have a counterproductive effect. The person affected in such case is then unable to overcome the imbalance created.

Time shortage creates stress

When it comes to relief for managers and superiors, it is important to note that whether or not someone feels stress at work depends on the overall situation. Part of this also includes what, if any, degree of stress the person brings with him from his private life.  Here is an example: An employee has to leave punctually on a certain day so that he can pick up his daughter from daycare. But he is well aware that he has got to finish a presentation first before he goes. The limited block of time creates a degree of stress because two fixed points in time coincide. Each of the situations alone however would not cause any stress. What is more: Every person perceives each of the situations described individually and evaluates them on the basis of personal experience. For example, someone skilled in dealing with such stress situations will experience the stress differently than someone who has no stress management skills. Stress itself is not negative. On the contrary, stress motivates and stimulates.  Companies should thus set store in their employees developing stress management skills. Here are a few tips on how to better handle pressure and stress. First we are going to take a look at the individual and then offer solutions for managers and bosses.


1.    Laugh

Stress gets people down. People who only see what they have not yet achieved and everything they still need to do suffer depressive thoughts in the long term. Consequently, laughing is an effective remedy. Watch a funny film with some friends or look around your town to find a performance of a popular cabaret artist. Do not take yourself too seriously. People who are capable of laughing about themselves will always find sufficient cause.

2.    Go offline

We live in a culture of interruption. Calls and incoming emails destroy any chance of us concentrating on a task for even just one or two hours at a time. If things get technical, pull the plug and turn on the answering machine. The best solution is to leave your office. Take the papers you need and move to a conference room. You will be surprised what you can accomplish in such a distraction-free zone.

3.    Get enough sleep

Exhausted employees are unfocused, slower, and more prone to mistakes. Those who are well-rested perform their tasks more easily and with better results. And by the way, observing one day a week of relaxation considerably lowers stress levels. After a single free day of relaxation, we are able to get more done in the remaining six days than those who work seven days straight in a row.


1.    Improve the work environment

People perform worse in bleak, stuffy rooms than in bright, well-ventilated ones. Consequently, it pays to ask yourself how the workplaces could be made more attractive. Do the staff need new office chairs? Is it not time to just get rid of the useless bookshelves full of file binders accumulated over the last 30 years? Talk to your employees and address their wishes.

2.    Offer training seminars on stress managementToSeCo-Header_162x58

Most of us have not learned how to handle pressure and stress well. However the right methods can offer us a great deal of relief in this area. With training or targeted individual coaching, employees not only feel appreciated but they also receive good instruments to help them master their everyday work. Moreover, we have had good experience with a “stress profile” that employees can

individually create and that helps them to work on reducing their personal stress in a targeted manner. Every employee should create their own personal stress management program based on their stress behavior. In this way, they learn to steer non-productive stress management in a productive direction using methods from short and long-term strategies tailored to their own personal needs.

3.    Take care of affected individuals

Even with the best of tools you cannot prevent some individual cases of employee burnout. You can undertake rehabilitation and reincorporation measures to recover these individuals once again for committed collaboration in the company. This simultaneously sends the following message to all company employees: “Even if things are going bad for you, we won’t leave you out on a limb.” This has a positive effect on the working atmosphere.


Stress is a daily problem. To solve it, employees need to develop skills for dealing with stress. They depend on personnel development support to this end. Only through such support is implementation of a sustainable open and trusting culture of stress management within the company possible. With the rise in workers calling in sick and work performance suffering due to stress, the related costs quickly pay off for companies.