Over time, chronic workplace stress can take a detrimental toll on the body — that’s something I learned the hard way. A year ago, at age 38, I underwent lifesaving, open-heart surgery to repair severe blockage in my four main arteries.
While I do have a family history of heart disease — mainly caused by a lack of exercise, poor diet or age — I’ve always been active and lived a healthy lifestyle. While waiting for my emergency surgery, every doctor, nurse and staff member joked that they had the wrong patient because of my general health and age. After taking a more in-depth look, doctors linked the problem, in part, to high workplace stress that I endured starting more than 12 years ago.
New studies are released regularly that draw attention to the growing levels of high stress in America, largely related to job security and financial issues. In fact, three out of every four Americans describe their workplace as stressful. This potential silent killer plays a key role in many common health problems.
As a result of my traumatic experience, I recently launched a campaign called “The Heart To Sole: Creating A Stress-Free America” through my current company, Flip Flop Shops. The campaign’s mission is to help reduce stress levels, improve heart health and support the American Heart Association’s “My Heart. My Life.” healthy-living initiative.
Darin Kraetsch, CEO and co-founder (Size 10) of Flip Flop Shops, says I really took a bullet for all our friends and family, proving that no one is safe from heart disease. That’s exactly why we want to share my story and help others prevent a similar ordeal.
By making cultural changes to help employees work smarter and with less unhealthy stress, companies in turn will increase their efficiency.
Workplaces across America will be much healthier environments if employers make the following changes:
Relax the dress code and start Flip Flop Fridays: Consider allowing employees to dress more casually and wear flip flops, at least on certain days of the week, like Flip Flop Fridays. A recent study by Alexander Babbage discovered that the more formal the dress code, the more stressful the work environment. Conversely, those who frequently wear flip flops are more likely to have lower or non-existent stress levels than those who wear more formal footwear.
Start employee health programs: Begin implementing heart health programs for employees, such as mandatory annual stress tests (like a treadmill test or exercise test) to detect potential heart health problems. In my case, the stress test was the only test that detected my heart disease — it saved my life.
Get involved in health foundations: Consider getting involved with the AHA or another health organization to educate yourself and employees. There are so many great tools and programs companies can easily implement to help reduce stress among its personnel to create a healthier work/life balance.
Allow employees to telecommute: At Flip Flop Shops, we have more than 90 locations throughout the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Guam, but have never and will never have corporate offices. I’ve tried the corporate office style, and while it might make sense for some companies, others — like mine — see more productivity and growth when employees are allowed to work wherever they want. ●
Brian Curin is the president and co-founder (Size 10) of Flip Flop Shops, an Atlanta-based retail franchise exclusive to popular brands and latest styles of flip flops and sandals, as well as the president and co-founder of OfficeZilla, an Atlanta-based online office supply retailer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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