Managing Stress in the Workplace
Stress at work accounts for 35% of work related ill health. Almost 23 days a year are lost per stress related incident resulting in over 9.9 million days a year! According to the Labour Force Survey 2014/15, the impact of stress on lost productivity costs UK businesses £3.7 billion a year.
With more and more demands on our time and the pressures of modern living we’re all likely to be affected by stress at some point in our lives. While major life changes like death, divorce and moving house are an obvious and significant cause of stress, we also come under stress every day through the demands, situations and environments in which we find ourselves.
Stress is an adverse reaction to a situation, pressure or demands being placed on you that you’re not able to cope with. You’re likely to feel under pressure and become stressed by rush-hour traffic, working long hours, a heavy workload, performance pressure, meeting deadlines, confrontation and change.
The level of stress experienced will vary from one person to another. What you find stressful might be an enjoyable or challenging experience for someone else.
We all handle stress differently. You need to understand what causes you stress, what is an acceptable level of stress and how you can manage and reduce your stress levels. A certain amount of pressure will stir you into action, give you the push you need to meet deadlines, deal with confrontations and provides the challenges which make work (and life) interesting.
Too much pressure results in stress which has an effect on you physically and mentally. Continued stress results in a loss of performance, lower productivity and affects how you think and feel.
Stress is known to be a major cause in many health-related problems:
• digestive issues
• back neck and shoulder pain
• skin conditions
• disruption to sleep and insomnia
• high-blood pressure
• loss or gain in weight
• heart disease
… the list goes on.
Stress is one of the main reasons employees take time off from work. Even less serious physical symptoms – lack of concentration, low energy levels, forgetfulness, being late and frequent colds can all be signs of stress and will have an affect on productivity.
The impact of stress is now far better understood. Recognise the source of your stressful situations.
Here are a few ways to reduce or deal with stress:
Look after yourself:
– Get a good night’s sleep. Lack of sleep will affect you how you feel and affects your productivity. Get at least 7-8 hours a night if you want to be productive and effective.
– Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Too much processed, high-fat, high sugar food buts a strain on your body and your digestive system. Eat plenty of fruit, vegetables and drink water. You’re more likely to be dehydrated than hungry.
– Avoid excessive stimulants. Coffee, tea, cigarettes and alcohol. While these might give you a short-term fix to deal with a situation, their long-term effect is likely to have negative consequences.
– Take regular exercise. Getting active allows your body to deal with and release any build-up of stress. Being fit enables you to deal with stress in a more positive way by increasing your energy level, helping you to focus.
– Allow time for yourself, your family and friends. When you’re under pressure it’s too easy to get caught up in work and miss out on important social time.
– Switch off. When your mind is buzzing, you feel overwhelmed and more stressed. Calm a busy mind with breathing exercises, meditation or relaxing movement such as yoga or tai-chi. Mentally switching off is proven to be beneficial to your overall wellbeing.
Manage your workload:
– Work fewer hours. The longer you work, the more tired and stressed you become and the less productive you are. Set clear start and end times, focus on prioritising and taking control of your workload. You’ll be more productive with a cut-off time rather than just carrying on working until you’re ‘done’.
– Set clear boundaries and expectations. If you often feel overwhelmed, know when to say no and set clear expectations with your boss, colleagues and customers/clients about how much you can do, what’s expected and when it will be done.
– Take responsibility. You’re not always in control of everything that’s going on around you but take responsibility for your own work and wellbeing. What do you need to put you back in control and reduce your stress levels?
– Be pro-active. When you’re constantly reacting to outside demands, you’re more likely to feel stressed. Plan ahead. Prioritise what’s important, stay focused and avoid distractions.
– Keep things in perspective. Take a deep breath and ask yourself “What’s the worst that can happen?” Too often you end up worrying or getting stressed over the smallest things ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff’.
– Work within your own ability. Being challenged and stepping out of your comfort zone creates a sense of challenge and achievement through positive stress enabling you to grow. However, constantly being expected to do things for which you have no skill, ability or knowledge leads to mistakes, poor quality and stress.
Communicate. Let the people around you know how you’re feeling and give feedback in a timely and appropriate way. Avoiding either bottling up your emotions or letting them get on top of you.
Talk it through. It really does help to talk. Sometimes just getting what’s causing you stress out of your head, can help give you a sense of perspective and help you come to a decision.
• What causes you the most stress?
• What level of stress do you experience from a particular task or on a particular day?
• How does it make you feel?
Take a few minutes to think about your current stress levels. What can you do to manage your workload, improve your wellbeing and reduce or manage your stress?
Arrange time for a chat if you’d like to reduce your stress levels. Find out how to apply these to your own situation.