It’s the same story every year, July and August fly by, and in that time half of the office disappeared on annual leave – while they enjoyed time with their families and soaked up the sun – it often fell to the rest of us to pick up their work and ensure their tasks were completed in their absence. According to research, doing this means not only were we having to work through our lunch breaks, but a third of us feel overwhelmed with increased workloads and the pressure to deliver even more. So, as work starts to come back to normal, it’s often hard to shake off the feelings of stress and anxiety that you’ve contended with for months.
It’s not just additional work that adds to our stress levels, factors such as; feeling as though we aren’t able to cope with the demands of our role and the impact of mobile technology, meaning we can check our emails at any hour can impact our stress levels. It can also develop from receiving little support from colleagues or senior management, poor relationships and negative behavior as well as unnecessary or badly communicated change. However, regardless of how stress manifests itself within the working environment, it can have a big impact on employees and productivity.
Given that many of us spend the majority of our time working, it’s crucial for our mental wellbeing that we know how to prevent or at least minimise the impact of these issues.
Here, the experts at CABA, the wellbeing charity have shared 10 practical things you can do to deal more effectively with stress at work:
Build connections with your colleagues
When it comes to workplace stress, no one understands its impact better than the people who work alongside you. Your colleagues can be a significant source of support with both the management of day-to-day tasks and during periods of change or uncertainty. If you work from home, it’s particularly important to combat isolation by reaching out to colleagues frequently throughout the day and making the most of any opportunity for face-to-face contact.
Develop your assertiveness skills
When you’re feeling overstretched, being able to push back on new demands can help stop things from getting on top of you. Improving your assertiveness can also empower you to discuss your workload or working environment with your manager and the potential changes that might help such as flexible working hours.
Give yourself a break
Putting pressure on yourself to achieve perfection in every task only adds to your stress levels. Show yourself a little understanding. Accept that everyone makes mistakes and not everything can be perfect 100% of the time.
Take regular breaks
Frequent breaks away from your computer screen allow for more creative thinking, better processing of information and improved focus. Aim for a 5-minute screen break every 90 minutes or so and always try to take your lunch break away from your desk completely. If possible, get some fresh air with a short lunchtime walk. You’ll notice the difference in your motivation, energy and productivity levels in the afternoon.
Why not try one of these simple desk-based exercises when you take a screen break.
Stick to your office hours
The key to finding this balance is the setting of strict boundaries between work and home life. If you can, try to leave your work phone and laptop at work or set yourself a curfew for checking them when you get home. This will help you to properly relax and unwind at the end of each day and give you more time to spend with friends and family or on hobbies and passions outside of work.
Keeping your H2O levels topped up throughout the day helps you maintain focus and concentration. When we’re dehydrated, we’re more likely to feel irritable and find it difficult to make decisions, which can exacerbate potentially stressful situations.
Pause and refocus
Mindful breathing exercises can help you stay calm and in control when things start to feel overwhelming. Even a momentary pause, like this one-minute meditation, can make a difference.
Know your worth
Understanding the impact of your role and the difference you make to wider organisational goals can give you a stronger sense of purpose, which helps you cope when the pressure’s on. It’s hard to stay motivated when you can’t see the point or value in your hard work.
If your employer invites staff to participate in planning or evaluations, have your say. Change is particularly stressful when you feel as though it’s been imposed without any consultation or input from the people it effects. Getting involved whenever you have the chance can help to minimise this by giving you a greater sense of control or at least a better understanding of why certain decisions are made.
You can’t do everything at once, so be realistic about what you can achieve and by when. Try not to be too hard on yourself if you don’t tick everything off your to-do list. Write a list and work out what is urgent and what can wait.
While it isn’t easy, and often not feasible to implement all of these ideas into your day, or if you’re lacking time during busy periods – ensure that you at least make time to relax and try to switch off as and when you can. Because ultimately, the more stressed and exhausted you are the more likely you are to call in sick, suffer from a low morale as well as decreased levels of productivity.
For more help and advice, visit caba.org.uk/help-and-guides