Only executives or C-suite managers experience stress at work, right? Wrong! Work-related stress can occur in any job, at any level and in any sector.
It may be caused by factors that are within your control - such as a failure to prioritise your workload or things beyond your control - such as crisis events. While you can't always avoid stress, it's important to find strategies to manage it.
Contrary to myth, healthy working isn't just about protecting people avoiding 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 602,000 cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety between 2018 and 2019, resulting in 12.8 million working days being lost.
The added pressures of the pandemic and its consequences caused these numbers to soar. In 2019/20 work-related stress, anxiety or depression led to 17.9 million days lost- almost a 50% increase on the previous year!
How to manage stress at work
1. Watch out for the signs & symptoms of stress
Some signs to watch for include emotional changes (mood swings, aggression or sensitivity, loss of confidence or motivation, etc), mental changes (such as indecision, loss of concentration), and 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 that they have personal control, such as in times of crisis. Whether it is the Coronavirus pandemic, missing key project milestones, or high staff absenteeism - all add pressure on the team, causing increased stress levels. But, if you're aware of the pressure points, you can arrange extra support.
3. Establish boundaries
If you take on too much work out of fear of saying 'no' that can lead to stress building up. If work is piling up, talk to your manager to set your priorities so they can arrange more help if necessary.
4. Get the balance right
A good work-life balance is essential for your personal wellbeing. 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
Stress will never be far away if you don't meet your deadlines or if you fail to organise your work. There are some simple steps you can take 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 grievances promptly
Don't let work-related problems build up. If you experience anything which contributes to stress at work (such as conflict, bullying or harassment), tell your manager so it can be resolved.
7. Develop healthy responses
Fast food, alcohol and drugs are not healthy coping mechanisms - they endanger your health and that of your colleagues. Instead, make sure that you take regular breaks as this improves your concentration and productivity. To wind down, try exercise, family-time or one of your favourite hobbies.
8. Use virtual opportunities for socialising and support
If you are working away from the office, arrange virtual coffee breaks and 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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