Founder of Wellness FactoryMaster’s thesis study conducted for the University of Turku, Turku School of Economics: The association between stress, recovery, and work engagement among Finnish business managers (2013). Studied the interrelation between physiological and subjective stress, recovery and work engagement among Finnish business managers (n=11) for three working days using Firstbeat Heart rate Variability Analysis.
The idea for the study came from my personal interest in well-being and organizational management during my business administration studies. Last summer I started to plan the master’s
thesis and I found Firstbeat HRV analysis as an interesting data gathering method for analyzing Finnish business managers’ stress and recovery. The most interesting part of the study was combining the results between the subjective feelings and objective measurements of Firstbeat HRV analysis. This data gathering method provided vital information that would have been impossible to gather just subjectively.The Association Between Stress, Recovery, and Work Engagement Among Finnish Business Managers.
The research combined different fields of study: health, well-being and work and managerial studies. The theoretical overview consisted of work engagement, stress and recovery research. By combining these fields it was possible to research a topic that was not only useful from the theoretical perspective but also from a managers’ point of view: This research provides a tool for managers to recognize areas of stress, recovery, and work engagement where they might lack resources.
Already from the theoretical framework, it was possible to notice that the definitions of positive stress and work engagement were rather similar. This discovery had a major role in the discussion of the study.
Lesson 1: Positive Stress Supports Work Engagement
When discussing the association between stress, recovery and work engagement, people often ask: “How do I get rid of stress” or “why should I be interested in my stress, because I am not experiencing any”? Stress is a word that often has a negative tone in our discourse. However, without stress we could not do anything: it indicates a rise of our body activity level caused by different stressors. Whatever you do during a day, there’s always stress! The key is to acknowledge the nature of stress: whether it is positive or negative. The goal is not to get rid of stress but to turn if from negative to positive.
Lesson 2: To Experience Positive Stress Requires Good Recovery
What supports positive stress? In addition to positive thinking, the key for experiencing positive stress, is paying attention to recovery during day and overnight. According to previous studies it is possible to turn negative stress into positive by decreasing the workload and e.g. through yoga, relaxation exercises, spots and other relaxing activities.
In organizational context, resources often overload and are used in a consuming way. While personal resources should be in balance with the work demands, the organizational resources should be balanced with the demands of the organization. If not, there are employees that are too satisfied with their position and positive stress is not accumulating, or the strain is too high to handle, and the resources are divided inefficiently. This might be the reason why positive stress is not accumulating in the organization.
An organization and its individuals should be able to recognize their resources: Are all the possible organizational resources in use? What about individual resources? What can an organization do to reallocate its resources for better results? If a manager is able to recognize and allocate the resources of his organization well – the value of each individual in the organization grows.
Resource Management: A Resource Building vs. A Resource Consuming Manager
Resource management can be explained from an athlete’s point of view: you may have a lot of muscle fibers in your body, but only part of them in use if not training effectively. Increasing training will activate new muscle fibers. Muscles are inclined to laziness: if you do not use them, you cannot benefit from them. The same thing applies to organizations. Even though all the best people were recruited to the organization, without accurate resource management their abilities cannot be benefited from and used efficiently.
Lesson 3: Understanding Your Resources Creates More Resouces for Future
For every athlete, organization or individual, the goal is to achieve better results in the future. If consuming all the resources today, there is none left for tomorrow. Even though we might think “I’ll manage the strain or negative stress for a while” it will diminish our resources long term. If it goes on for a long time the organization does not have all the possible resources in their use now and in the future. In worst case scenario a manager does not have the ability to recognize his/her own or employees’ increasing work load and negative stress. This might lead to sickness, long time recovery and costs to the organization. Resources are in use also when the organization is developing towards a super-organization. A super-organization has all of its resources activated and managed effectively. Resource management needs a change in the mindset and can start from employee or manager level by asking: Are you a resource building or resource consuming
person in your organization?
If you are interested in learning more about resource management, please contact the Wellness Factory. I am happy to tell you more about my training philosophy and methods.
Suvi-Tuuli Helin, MSc (B.A.)
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