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Stop Getting 'Stressed' Out On The Job

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RALEIGH — Your job, your kids, bills and the boss. When you add it all up, the pressure and stress can feel like the weight of the world on your shoulders.

What do you do about it? How do you avoid calling in sick or being absent too much from work?

After one look around the offices ofAlien Skin Softwarecompany in Raleigh, you quickly realize it is not an average office.

There are no suits, no neck ties and no pumps.

"Having a low light situation like this keeps me calmer," said one employee.

There is mood lighting, encouragement by music and naps when the mood hits, because there is a couch in every office.

"We have massage therapy every other week," said employee Jay Bee Popplewell. "We get full medical insurance, IRA, and our boss buys our hair dye."

There is no wonder the employees get a kick out of working.

"When I used to have to be to work at 9 a.m., I would drive and be so irritated, because I couldn't get to work on time. Now it's like 'la, la, la.' Everybody passes me all irritated. 'La, la, la.' Get to work when I feel like it. It takes a lot of stress off," said Popplewell.

"Wouldn't it be wonderful if all our working environments were like that?" said Dr. Redford Williams.

Williams, aDuke Universityprofessor, is a 30 year veteran of stress research.

"Until we get to that lovely day, to that happy day, I'm afraid it's probably a long way off for most of us. We need to have more inner resources to be able to cope with stress," said Williams.

For Charles Lysaght, a Raleigh structural engineer, his outlet is sports.

"I love racquetball," said Lysaght.

He plays it with the zeal and vigor of a missionary on a mission. For him, a healthy mind is gospel.

"I've just never noticed when I'm busy at work. I'm just not tired, and I think working out as much as I do helps me stay alert most all day," said Lysaght.

Many people say numbers do not lie. One number that is very telling for many corporations is the amount of money being spent on health care costs, 12 to 15 percent of which are stress related illnesses, according to one leading Duke University researcher.

That makes the point that a healthier, happier workforce that steers clear of examining rooms makes good business sense.

That is a concept that is working for Lysaght.

His day starts early and ends late. He plans it that way with a morning jog or racquetball at lunch.

"My whole day is broken up into these nice two segments rather than one long day, and I think it makes a big difference," said Lysaght.

As for the employees of Alien Skin, creating software that can turn basic photos into images that are out of this world takes its toll every now and then.

Stress can be a factor even in the most relaxed of environments.

"It's hard sometimes, but it's a good stress. It's a stress that I can deal with. It's not a stress that makes me feel horrible about coming into work everyday," said employee Michael Pilmer.

"We just made lots of money," said Popplewell.

And that's the ultimate return on a company investing in its employees.

Williams recommends if you do not have an office atmosphere like the ones described above, the best thing to do is monitor your stress level.


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