Factors within your control, such as a failure to prioritise your workload, or things beyond your control, such as crisis events, can cause stress at work. While you can't always avoid stress, it's important to find strategies to manage it.
Contrary to myth, health and well-being at work aren't just about protecting people from physical injury. Work-related stress, depression and anxiety are soaring and usually arise as a consequence of someone being unable to cope with undue pressure and demands placed on them at work.
According to statistics released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), there were 822,000 work-related stress, depression or anxiety cases between 2020 and 2021. Of these cases, 451,000 were new in 2020/21.
The pressures of the pandemic and its consequences caused these numbers to soar. Other factors include workload, threats or bullying, violence, lack of support and changes at work. The increase in work-related stress, anxiety or depression cases in 2020/21 is higher than in the 2018/19 pre-pandemic levels.
How to manage stress at work
1. Watch out for the signs & symptoms of stress
Some signs to watch for include the following:
- emotional changes (mood swings, aggression or sensitivity, loss of confidence or motivation, etc.),
- mental changes (such as indecision, loss of concentration),
- behavioural changes (for example, changes in eating or sleeping patterns, increased smoking or drinking, changes in attendance etc.).
2. Be aware of high-risk situations that add pressure
Teams experience higher stress when they don't feel they have personal control, such as in times of crisis. The Coronavirus pandemic, missing key project milestones, or high staff absenteeism are all factors that add pressure on teams which causes increased stress levels. But, if you're aware of the pressure points, you can arrange extra support.
3. Establish workload boundaries
If you take on too much work out of fear of saying 'no', that can lead to a build-up of stress. If work is piling up, talk to your manager to set your priorities so they can arrange more help and support if necessary.
4. Get the work-life balance right
A good work-life balance is essential for your well-being. Remember, if you are working at home, no one expects you to be glued to a keyboard 24 hours a day. It's important to keep work and personal time separate. Downtime is vital and will help you stay productive.
5. Manage your time better by prioritising
Stress will never be far away if you don't meet your deadlines or if you fail to organise your work. You can take some simple steps to manage your time more effectively, whether you work remotely or on-site. Prioritise your workload, arranging tasks in terms of deadline and importance.
6. Raise work-related grievances promptly
Don't let work-related problems build up. If you experience anything contributing to stress at work (such as conflict, bullying or harassment), tell your manager so leadership can solve the problem.
7. Develop healthy responses to work stress
Fast food, alcohol and drugs are not healthy coping mechanisms - they endanger your health and the health of your colleagues. Instead, take regular breaks, improving your concentration and productivity. To unwind, try exercise, family time or one of your favourite hobbies.
8. Use virtual opportunities for socialising & support
If you are working away from the office, arrange virtual coffee breaks, hangouts, phone calls and video conferencing. They will allow you to keep benefiting from social interactions and boost knowledge sharing with your team.
9. If stress affects your ability to do your job, tell someone
In the first instance, speak with your manager. If you don't feel comfortable with that, don't be afraid to reach out to HR or other colleagues. By concealing the problem, you will likely make matters worse. Added resources, training and support are only possible if your employer knows you need help.
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