Eight simple steps to tackle workplace stress
While a bit of pressure is part and parcel of work life, and can even be a good motivator for achieving goals, living with the constant strain of an excessive workload, unrealistic deadlines and high expectations can be extremely detrimental to your mental and physical wellbeing.
More than 12.5 million UK working days are lost each year to work-related stress, depression or anxiety, so it’s a real problem – and important that everybody, employees and employer alike, acknowledges it and takes necessary steps to help manage it.
Knowing where to start, however, can be difficult, especially when you’re already overwhelmed, but small changes can make a big difference. Here, Liz Walker, HR director at Unum, outlines eight simple steps to help your work-related wellbeing year-round.
1. Be ‘SMART’
“If you’re feeling a little down at work, set yourself some goals to boost motivation. They need to be realistic to achieve,” says Walker. She suggests using the ‘SMART’ acronym, which stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-specific. So rather than just vaguely vowing to be better at managing your time, set out a named task, that’s not impossible to complete, with a realistic deadline.
2. Take time out
Saving all your holiday up for a long getaway might be a nice thought, but it’s probably not benefiting you in the long-run. Walker suggests that by giving yourself more three-day weekends throughout the year, particularly after a more stressful period at work, you are less at risk of wearing yourself too thin. Taking time away from your desk is an important step towards staying present and engaged with those around you, whether that’s picking up the kids from school or completing a DIY project you’ve been putting off for months.
3. Maximise your work perks
“Lots of people use the earlier months as a chance to do a little ‘spring cleaning’, which should also include reviewing your current work offerings,” Walker says. By fully assessing what benefits are on offer from your employer, you can ensure you’re getting the most out of your job. Make use of discount vouchers for weekend trips and evening meals, take some classes at the work gym or sign yourself up for a training course to learn a new skill.
4. Let there be light
There’s a lot to be said for the power of light and the positive impact it can have on our working day. “Natural light helps stabilise serotonin and triggers endorphins, both moodboosting hormones, leaving you calmer and happier,” says Walker. Resist the temptation to snack at your desk by using your lunch break to get out of the office, even if it’s just for a short walk around the block, to refresh and relax.
5. Ask about employee recognition schemes
“Ask your employer if they might consider introducing an employee recognition scheme to highlight great work done by your teams,” suggests Walker. “Whether the recognition is made publicly or privately, it will boost morale and create a more positive work environment”. Feeling valued can be extremely rewarding, and even help alleviate a certain amount of stress.
6. Know your limits
One of the main causes of work-related stress is an excessive workload. “If you feel overwhelmed at a particularly busy or stressful time at work or in your personal life, talking to your line manager or HR about how you are feeling will give them a better understanding of your capacity,” says Walker.
7. Talk about it
While opening up a discussion on mental health isn’t always easy, speaking to a trusted colleague may put you at ease. Work-related stress, depression or anxiety accounts for 40% of work-related ill-health, according to HSE, so it’s likely that another close colleague has been feeling the same way. If you’re nervous about initiating a conversation with your boss, try sending an email voicing your feelings and ask them to get back to you after reading it.
8. Take control of your finances
Walker highlights that financial health is vital to feeling happy and healthy at work. Budgeting doesn’t have to be boring either; monitor your finances using mobile budgeting apps or take advantage of the number of financial assistance schemes that may be on offer to you in your workplace.
Work-related stress, depression or anxiety accounts for 40% of work-related ill-health, according to HSE. Picture: Getty Images/ istockphoto.