By Jayne Morris, Chief Executive at TPP Not for Profit
Work stress can be brought on by a number of reasons, such as increased work demands, deadlines, changes to staff or bullying. This can have a negative impact on your health, and create problems such as not sleeping, lack of concentration or cause unhealthy behaviours, such as drinking in excess. It can also make it difficult to prioritise, juggle demands and can lead to long term absences from work. It is important to therefore tackle and manage your stress as soon as possible for your overall health.
In this month’s blog we give our top 5 ways to managing your stress in the workplace.
1. Speak out
Speak to your Manager when you feel you have too many demands or deadlines approaching. Together work out a plan of tackling your workload before it becomes too much. By speaking to your peers or colleagues, they may have ideas you had not thought of or may be able to help complete some tasks for you.
Your Manager may be able to make reasonable adjustments to assist you in performing well or suggest ways to organise your workload to help. It is essential to tell your employer if it is putting you or others health at risk, as they have a duty under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure your welfare at work.
If you are stressed over staff/company changes or being bullied, talk to your Manager or an employee you can trust. They can help you understand why changes are happening or deal with a problem, such as bullying, through your HR department.
2. Build relationships with colleagues and peers
If you are in a senior role within an organisation, it can feel isolating at times; use your network or social media to connect with other peers. People in a similar position can help you obtain ideas and cope more effectively. Be positive and have positive people around you and avoid people that can be draining. Have regular meetings with your colleagues, discussing tasks on your radar. This can help ensure tasks get dealt with promptly before it becomes too late and prevent your workload from becoming too much.
3. Have breaks
Take breaks at work, away from your desk. A brisk walk can really help clear your head and although may not feel like it, physical exercise can sharpen your focus and lift your mood, making tackling a stressful situation seem less daunting. Take time to eat throughout the day. Low blood sugar levels can make you feel anxious and irritable. By eating healthy and throughout the day you can keep your energy levels up and stay focussed, to help you tackle your work.
It may feel like you’re wasting time that could be spent working, but you’ll be much more productive, as well as less stressed, when you return to your desk.
Access to work from home, such as through a mobile phone/ laptop, can actually make it more difficult to switch off from work or a problem such as bullying. It can be more tempting to check your emails late at night or at the weekend, giving you no time to clear your mind. Switch your phone off after a certain time and at weekends.
Many organisations offer advice and guidance on a healthy work life balance through employee assistance programmes. Speak to your HR department for advice on this.
4. Get Organised
It is very easy to say ‘yes’ when asked to do something by your Manager or a colleague, but if you are taking on too much you will end up doing nothing well. Think about your current workload and use a “to do” or task list, prioritising your tasks and how long they will take you to complete. Use this information when assessing whether you have time to take on additional work.
If you have a large task to complete, break it down into smaller tasks. This can make it easier to handle and give a greater sense of achievement as you complete parts of it. If you are find you are getting distracted from a task being in a noisy office, with phones ringing and emails flooding in, put your out of office on and turn your phone on to do not disturb. Switching off from distractions and getting a task completed can really help your workload and reduce stress as a result. If your workload is still too much after prioritising your to do list then delegate responsibility.
If staff changes are affecting your workload, have a meeting with your team, to work out how to share increased demands and who is best placed to handle tasks. For issues such as bullying, ensure you record when the problem happens and report each instance of it. Having everything in order, will help when speaking to HR.
5. Think Positively
Stress can feel a lot worse by thinking negatively; you won’t feel motivated or have the energy to tackle the problem. Give yourself a well done for completing tasks, however small and using your network, build relationships with positive people.
If changes in the work place are causing your stress, think about the positive impact this may have on your organisation. People generally don’t like change but certain things are out of your control, such as redundancy by your employer and worrying or stressing about them won’t stop it happening. Instead have plans for ‘what if’ scenarios and try to think about the positive it could have on your work life.
Links for HR/Line Managers
If you are a HR Manager or line Manager, you may find the following links useful in tackling the issue of stress in the workplace. Employers have a legal responsibility to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of their employees under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
CIPD – Line management behaviour and stress at work
Health & Safety Executive – Management Standards for work related stress
Employee Assistance Professionals Association
Useful Links on managing your stress
Managing Stress at the top
Help guide – Stress at work
Health & Safety Executive – tackling work related stress