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5 Steps To Avoid Triggering Stress In The Workplace

Written by: Catherine Elizabeth Wood, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Organizations can trigger stress in the workplace either intentionally or inadvertently through unhelpful leadership behaviors and toxic organizational cultures.

Stress in the workplace impacts employee engagement by affecting mood, motivation, fear, and alert level. Workplace wellbeing needs to be a priority to maintain employee engagement for a future-fit organization. Therefore, your organization needs to understand how to avoid triggering stress in the workplace for employees' wellbeing.

Think about your current organisational culture and the leadership behaviours in the organisation. Is your organization triggering stress in the workplace through leadership behaviors and organizational culture?

Consider what you want your organizational culture and values to look like. Incorporating science-based strategies into your organization will reduce workplace stress and enable your organization to increase employee engagement by:

  • Minimising triggers of stress. The brain automatically activates the limbic system during stressful situations which releases cortisol, the primary stress neurochemical. Cortisol affects mood, motivation, fear, and alert level.

  • Increasing a sense of reward in the workplace. The brain releases the brain-friendly neurochemical dopamine when it has a rewarding experience. Activators for the release of dopamine include novelty, curiosity, perceptions of control, meditation, mindfulness, and positive social interactions.

Using a framework of science-based strategies to reduce workplace stress, there are 5 steps you can take in your organisation to ensure employees see their work as a rewarding experience.

1. Drive a sense of meaning and purpose

When the brain experiences familiarity to feel safe, the prefrontal cortex is activated, which is responsible for strategic thinking, planning, organizing, self-monitoring, self-control, memory, time management, and maintaining a sense of calm during adversity. When the prefrontal cortex is activated, this switches off the limbic brain.

Activating the prefrontal cortex will therefore positively impact employee performance and reduce stress.

To help employees have a sense of meaning and purpose, you can explore:

  • The meaning of their work within the team and organization

  • The value they bring to their work

  • How their values align with the organizations’ values

2. Create a culture of motivation

Building a culture of trust drives employee motivation. This is because the brain-friendly neurochemical oxytocin is released when an employee trusts in their team and the organisation. Trust activates a shift from the limbic system to the prefrontal cortex in the brain which will drive a culture of motivation.

To create a culture of motivation in the workplace, you can explore:

  • Communication which promotes trust

  • Rewarding behavior which promotes trust

  • Helping employees to promote a culture of trust

3. Encourage novelty in the workplace

Curiosity brings novelty. Novelty is intrinsically motivating and releases the brain-friendly neurochemical dopamine which reduces stress.

To encourage novelty in the workplace, you can explore:

  • Ideas to promote novelty in the team

  • How employees can bring novelty into their work

  • Encouraging curiosity in how to work smarter as a team

4. Increase delegation in the workplace

Having a sense of autonomy and control is a basic biological need that is essential for wellbeing. Delegation promotes a sense of autonomy and control as the employee feels they have freedom of choice in how they approach their work. The freedom of choice reduces stress.

To increase delegation in the workplace, you can explore:

  • How employees could take on new responsibilities in their work

  • How employees could work together as a team in decision-making

  • How the organization could increase employees’ freedom of choice within their work

5. Seek to bring familiarity through consistent leadership

Familiarity through consistency, clarity and transparency triggers an increase in the brain-friendly neurochemical oxytocin. The release of oxytocin results in employees experiencing a calmer state during adversity which reduces stress.

To bring familiarity in the workplace, you can explore:

  • How the organization can ensure consistency and clarity in their communication to ensure employees experience a sense of familiarity

  • How the organization can be sure to keep employees regularly informed on what is happening in the organization

  • How to welcome honest feedback about consistency, clarity, and transparency from employees

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Catherine Elizabeth Wood, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Catherine Wood, is a leader in mental resilience, science-based coaching through neuroscience, and creating new habits for behavior change. After an acute brain injury as an adult left her having irrational thoughts and self-doubt, Catherine developed an interest in neuroplasticity to understand how she could challenge her self-beliefs, promote helpful thoughts and create new habits for behavior change. Catherine has since dedicated her life to helping people to establish their self-belief in who they are as their best self to drive helpful thoughts and create new habits for behavior change in the workplace and in their personal life.

Catherine is the Founder of Life Renewal, the online coaching business combining leadership coaching and team coaching with evidence-based techniques in neuroscience. Catherine helps leaders drive employee engagement by modeling leadership behavior across 7 key leadership skills. Catherine has helped clients through her own coaching programs, workshops, and digital courses including "Mastering Emotional Competence in Leadership." Catherine has been a guest writer for Thrive Global which included an article on "Seeking Opportunities While Navigating Uncertainty", and she hosted a resilience series including "The Neuroscience of Resilience".

Catherine's mission: Science-based coaching for collaborative leadership behavior.



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