Business of Well-being

The Necessity of Stress and Wellness In the Workplace

The workplace needs a counterbalance. Now, be careful not to confuse that with balance, "an even distribution of weight." We're talking about counterbalance "a weight that balances another weight" - not unlike the relationship between stress and wellness in the workplace.

The thing about balance is that it can be poor, yet still, do the trick to keep you upright; whereas, counterbalance needs two equally opposing weights in order to stay in check. Think of a tightrope walker and a seesaw. Tightrope walkers can wobble, twist, turn, and level themselves to regain their balance.

A seesaw, on the other hand, has no such luck. If a dad gets on one end and his five-year-old son on the other, game over - the balancing act doesn't stand a chance. Let's explore this concept of counterbalance and the seesaw effect a bit further in terms of stress and wellness.

The Necessity of Stress

Associate professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, Daniela Kaufer, found that stress can be healthy and necessary for a productive workplace environment. The key is to find that sweet spot within the stress spectrum.

Healthy stressors can be things like deadlines, meetings, and budgets, as long as they're not affecting employees chronically. At its best, stress can help with alertness, performance, and memory - allowing employees to react and adapt to challenges quickly.

However, American workplaces aren't known to harbor the good kind of stress - they often fall on the negative side of the spectrum. The American Institute of Stress tells us that 40 percent of workplace employees feel that their job responsibilities air on the side of "very" or "extremely" stressful.

That gnawing, toxic workplace stress needs to be remedied, of course. But the healthy stress needs a bit of treatment, too. That's where the counterbalance of wellness comes in.

The Equal Necessity of Wellness

Wellness encompasses things like relaxation, health, and happiness - all of which are regularly yearned for in our lives, and which more employers should strive to provide. Many workplaces have taken this to heart, and some research suggests that "extreme" levels of employee stress have decreased by 39 percent since 2014.

For companies still looking to increase employees' health and happiness, wellness initiatives are the way to go. While daily remote working and two months of paid vacation might contribute to employee happiness, those things aren't really feasible for the average company. However, there are other, more tangible ways to contribute to your employees' relaxation, health, and happiness.

Try out some of these suggestions:

  • Lunchtime fitness classes
  • Gym membership reimbursements
  • Nutritious snacks or catered lunches
  • Health-related workshops
  • Motivational social challenges
  • Wellness goal tracking and rewards
  • Company culture outings
  • Recognized employee appreciation

The Perfect Counterbalance of Stress and Wellness

Research by Friedman and Riggio at the University of California, Riverside revealed that stress is, in essence, contagious. With that being the case, no workplace should be patient zero. Instead, companies should provide employees with reasonable and motivating stressors on one side of the seesaw, and a comprehensive wellness program on the other.

These two opposing concepts, stress and wellness will work together in counterbalance to create the most enjoyable employment experience for your employees.

About the Author

Derek Kren is VP of Sales at MediKeeper, Inc., a leading provider of SaaS-based health and wellness portals and can be reached at Prior to joining MediKeeper in 2013, Mr. Kren served as RVP and Vice President of Operations at Summit Health, Inc. and was instrumental in the company's growth from startup to one of the nation's largest providers of population health management services.

A former Biomedical Sciences Corps officer with the U.S. Air Force, Mr. Kren holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in psychology and has extensive operational, business development, and sales experience in the healthcare industry.

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