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, health and safety isn't just about protecting people from 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.
Strategies for managing work-related stress:
- Look out for signs and symptoms of stress both in yourself and others - 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.).
- Be aware of high-risk situations likely to create added pressure or burden in others - Teams experience higher stress when they don't feel that they have personal control, such as 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- When working from home, make use of virtual opportunities for continued socialising and support - Arrange virtual coffee breaks and hangouts, phone calls and video conferencing to keep benefiting from social interactions and boost knowledge sharing in your team.
- Speak to your manager if stress is affecting your ability to do your job - By concealing the problem, you will likely make matters worse. Added resources, training and support are only possible if your manager knows you need help.
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