Looking Out for the Well-Being of Mainframers
Remote work and information overload have increased pressure on organizations and their staff, including mainframers; Trevor Eddolls offers helpful tips to identify and cope with stress
Why Now?Recent times have highlighted the need for all organizations to put the mental health of their employees high on their priority list. Working from home for prolonged periods of time has had a particularly strong impact, with people often working in less-than-ideal conditions.
Many people have been isolated from their colleagues and coworkers over the past few years, and businesses have struggled to help their staff recognize when they and their colleagues may be experiencing difficulties, especially when the demands and uncertainties of work are set to continue with remote options.
Then there are the extra pressures we all face. Everyone is inundated with information, demanding deadlines and the added pressure to excel and perform. Efficiency, productivity and quality are imperative. So, burnout and frustration are not an option.
What employees need are practical tools and strategies that boost their well-being and resilience, allowing mainframe teams to understand stress and learn how to manage it, so they feel more motivated and productive. Organizations need their mainframe staff to maintain—and in some cases, regain—their passion for life!
The ProblemBefore a person is absent from their workplace with a stress-related illness, the negative impact on productivity can be surprisingly high. This presenteeism—where employees are physically at work, but their mind isn't on the job—creates an ongoing loss in productivity and a negative impact on the working environment because people don’t work in an effective way.
The Benefits of Resilient EmployeesCEOs and senior managers benefit if their employees understand and recognize the effects of stress on their brain and the body and can take steps to manage the situation, avoid burnout and perform optimally in their work environment. Employees become much more resilient as their level of well-being is enhanced, making them more effective and productive at work. Performance improvements will enhance the quality of the service that any business can offer its customers.
The Neuroscience of StressFor the person working on the mainframe, understanding what’s happening in their brain (the neuroscience) when they’re feeling stressed will help them deal with the effects. It’s good for their feelings of autonomy and self-worth.
The brain is divided up into two main areas. There’s the limbic area, which is where your emotions come from. It contains many identifiable regions like the amygdala and hippocampus. Its role is sometimes called the four Fs: fight, flight, feeding and reproductive behavior. You can think of it as the Homer Simpson part of your brain. The second area is the intellectual or logical brain. This is the Mr. Spock part of your brain, where original ideas are created.
The emotional part of the brain can quickly send messages to the adrenal gland for fight or flight responses. Interestingly, the responses are the same whether you’re excited about something or scared of something.
Prolonged stress causes the hormone cortisol to stay in the blood for long periods of time, which can cause negative effects like headache, weight gain and irritability.
Techniques for Dealing With StressSo, what can you do if you are in a stressful situation, and how can you reduce your cortisol levels? Breathing helps. Try 7-11 breathing, where you breathe in for a period of time (say a very quick count up to seven), then breathe out for a longer period (say a quick count up to 11). Repeating this helps calm down the body.
Square breathing has a similar effect. You breathe in for a period of time, hold your breath for the same length of time, breathe out for the same length of time and hold your breath before breathing in for the same time. Repeat this until you feel calm.
The third handy technique is to lie on the floor for about 10 minutes, breathing into your abdomen instead of into the lungs. So, rather than watching your chest rise and fall, you can see your stomach rising and falling.
Another common issue is that people spend much of their time sitting down, building up cortisol throughout the day. To get rid of the excess cortisol, it’s important to move around. A 30-minute walk can help, and dancing is a great way of burning off the cortisol. High-intensity interval training works too. Anything that gets your muscles moving will help lower your stress level.
Neurolinguistic programming (NLP) has some useful de-stressing techniques, and mindfulness has also been shown to be effective.
The benefits of investing in employees’ well-being are clear. It helps create mainframers who are more engaged, productive and less likely to be absent from work. It’s also about being responsible and supporting your workforce. It’s good for the reputation of a company and creates a more supportive culture that helps retain staff and attract new talent, leading to improved service levels and a greater customer experience.
Happy mainframers lead to a happy organization.
About the author
Trevor Eddolls is the CEO of iTech-Ed Ltd and has been an IBM Champion from 2009-2021.
See more by Trevor Eddolls