Identifying, Reducing and Managing Workplace Stress
This year, National Stress Awareness Day falls on November 5th and should be celebrated with the “big bang” normally reserved for this famous date. Over the past few years, awareness of stress and the negative impact it can have on both individuals and companies has been raised to such a level that most of us are now familiar with stress as a phenomenon, but do we risk assess our businesses and our employees sufficiently enough?
With 1 in 6 workers suffering with stress and the same ratio working more than 60 hours a week, it’s no wonder that at some stage we succumb to one of the many health problems associated with stress. The latest figures suggest that in the UK alone, we lose 13.8 million days a year to stress, which is the equivalent of each stress sufferer taking just over 30 days sick leave per annum.
The identification of what causes us stress can often be difficult without specialised help.
Companies may not realise what the contributory factors are and why certain symptoms have manifested themselves in staff members. Problems are often associated with work related stress where there can be many different reasons why people feel stressed and under pressure, such as high workload, working long hours, unachievable deadlines and taking work home.
Some typical symptoms to be aware of include frequent headaches, anxiety or panic attacks, lack of self-esteem or confidence, mood swings and fatigue. Also, not being able to maintain a decent sleeping pattern can also indicate that you may have too much to cope with. Be aware of any general trends that are emerging on a daily, weekly or monthly basis and try to understand what has been causing these problems.
Once you have successfully identified the causes, you can begin to implement suitable solutions on a gradual basis, but don’t try to fix all the problems at once as this will only put you under more pressure. Remember to get expert advice if the problems cannot be solved by you alone. If the problem stems from work, speak to your manager to see what can be achieved.
The importance of a healthy work/life balance
Many companies are now looking at introducing solutions to improve their employees work/life balance. There are a number of different initiatives that can be implemented to improve the overall effectiveness of such a scheme and these may range from flexible working (where possible) to wellness programmes such as Support Days, which will help employees to get assistance from qualified practitioners.
Taking a proactive stance towards reducing stress in the workplace and introducing positive techniques such as stress management workshops or coaching can be the key to helping the overall wellbeing factor. By adopting this policy, companies will almost certainly notice changes such as reduced absenteeism, higher staff morale, improved staff retention and increased productivity. With all of these points being considered, businesses should save money in the longer term, which in this economic climate has to be good news.
By understanding what causes you stress is a great starting point. Stress can be caused by a one-off situation or can also be the result of several stressful circumstances that may occur over a period of time. The saying “the straw that broke the camel’s back” has never been so true in many people’s lives.
The best recommendation is to try taking a more proactive stance towards managing your own stress and start to keep a Stress Diary to record those difficult times. This will help you to detect any particular patterns that may emerge and in turn, the identification of problems will be easier and you can then begin work on the major issues, one at a time.
Simply write down each stressful event over the next 14 days in a diary format with a brief explanation of what caused your stress levels to rise. Then, score the event on a 1-10 scale with 10 being the highest. If you notice any patterns emerging, it’s time to take a deeper look into what is causing the problems.
Other elements that have an impact on your stress and wellbeing include your diet and nutrition. It is always worth reviewing what you eat and drink to ensure that your body is getting the right balance and that you also have an exercise plan. And remember to take a regular break from your work to get some fresh air during the day as this will help re-focus you for the remainder of the day.
Finally, never allow problems to build up until you cannot cope. Cases of stress related illness are on the increase and if identified early enough, a lot of these would result in less time spent away from work and more time feeling fitter and healthier.
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