“According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in 2014/15, 440,000 people in the UK reported work-related stress at a level they believed was making them ill. That’s 40% of all work-related illness.” – NHS
The paragraph above is taken from the NHS page, it paints an unsettling picture of the role of stress in the UK workforce. It’s fair to say that at some point, we have all had a stressful day at work when you really feel the pressure of the role. Usually, we then go home unwind and start again the next day with a new perspective. Workplace stress often forms when these pressures continue day to day and the person involves develops an adverse reaction. These reactions go further than a bad day and can include symptoms such as headaches, anxiety attacks, loss of appetite, changes in behaviour and general aches and pains. All of which can have a dramatic effect on the quality of life for the individual, as well as decreasing productivity in the workplace.
Causes of Stress in the Workplace
There is probably no single cause of workplace stress and thought should be given to external factors, when dealing with individual cases. However, the Health and Safety Executive has identified 6 main causes of stress at work which the Company can affect:
• Demands made on employees;
• The level of control employees haven’t got over their work;
• The support employees receive from managers and colleagues;
• The clarity of an employee’ s role within the organization;
• The nature of relationships at work; and
• The way that changes are managed.
How to Manage Stress at Work
Managing stress at work should be a collaboration between managers and employees, with both playing an active role in its reduction. As an individual, you should be keeping an eye out for possible symptoms and speaking to your manager early, to help manage the stress before it gets out of hand. As a manager, this requires an atmosphere in the workplace that allows for such interaction without the fear of judgement. Simple things such as being able to discuss workloads can really make a difference.
As well as speaking to your manager to find ways to manage stressful events, the individual can take many steps to reduce stress on their own:
Time Planning & Task Prioritisation – take time at the beginning of the day to actively plan your workload. While allowing you to focus (knowing that all important tasks will be reached), this also helps you to have more meaningful conversations with your manager about workload (i.e I’ve taken steps to manage my time but I simply can’t meet the deadline of both projects)
Make time for your colleagues – having a chat with a colleague can be a great way to regain perspective on a current situation. You will also find that, more often than not, people will be willing to help if they can. Be careful not to ask too much of colleagues and steer clear of dwelling on your work problems or there is the potential to alienate yourself
Exercise – Exercise is a great stress reliever, even if it is only a quick stroll around the building. So rather than sitting at your desk and eating lunch, why not head out for a picnic and a “real” break from work.
Avoid unhealthy habits – This ranges from relying on coffee to get you through the morning meeting to feeling the need to drink alcohol in the evening as a release. Both are fine in moderation, but be careful not to rely on them as means of coping.