16 May 2018

How To Identify And Deal With Stress In The Workplace

Since it’s Mental Health Awareness Week, we wanted to talk about the importance of identifying stress in the workplace and how to deal with it. Last year almost 75% of people felt so stressed that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope so we all need to do more to manage these problems.

Work can be a significant factor when it comes to stress as we spend most of our lives in the office or wherever it may be. Over a third of people are stressed about work and just under 60% take work calls out of hours because it can be so difficult to switch off, especially when there’s a lot going on. The reasons for work-related stress are varied and include:

  • Demanding, high or insufficient workloads
  • Long or unpredictable working hours
  • Feeling pressured and experiencing challenging situations
  • Conflict with employees or bullying
  • Doing somebody else’s job
  • Concern about job security or a promotion

Despite stress not actually being an illness, it can seriously affect you emotionally, mentally, and physically. You know that overwhelming feeling when your chest starts to tighten and you feel a headache coming on, all whilst your brain is running away with anxious or busy thoughts? There are so many different symptoms of stress and as with anything, they are unique to each person. The person sat next to you may be feeling super stressed out but because their symptoms differ to yours, you may not even notice.

Stress can also have a negative impact on businesses by reducing productivity and increasing the number of mistakes made at work, absence and staff turnover. It can also cause other people to feel stressed and have a damaging effect on the working environment and culture. You may be able to identify stress in the workplace by:

  • Talking to employees and observing them while they work – Are they having mood swings? Do they have too much work on? Do they seem demotivated? Have they got problems in their personal life?
  • Looking out for tense working relationships, high absenteeism, or low job satisfaction – Are they being very argumentative with others? Do they take a lot of unplanned time off work or sick days?

To prevent stress leading to something worse like anxiety or depression, it’s important to tackle it while it’s controllable, or at least try to manage it. Research shows that two-thirds of us experience a mental health problem at some point and stress has an influence on this so if you feel the effects coming on strongly, you should try to do something about it.

People naturally manage their own problems in different ways, but you may be able to manage stress in the workplace by:

  • Realising what is causing the problem and identifying the effects stress has on you emotionally, mentally and physically.
  • Thinking about what changes you need to make at work to reduce your stress levels and acting on them.
  • Opening up and talking to your friends, family, colleagues or manager.
  • Organising your work life using to-do lists to ensure you prioritise tasks.
  • Giving yourself time to switch off at lunch and after work by getting away from your desk.
  • Looking after yourself by eating healthily, exercising regularly and avoiding excessive drinking or smoking.

Businesses can also help their employees by conducting stress risk assessments within the business and encouraging them to talk to others whether that’s in or outside of the office or see a GP. They should ensure that everyone is trained for their job, working in a safe environment and consider hiring a human resources manager to help manage employees’ welfare.

Whether you work in a demanding or pressurised job or not, it’s normal to feel stressed sometimes. Just remember that you shouldn’t always overlook the symptoms as it can easily spiral out of control and result in mental health problems. Not all employers may show understanding or sympathy, and some may even see it as an inconvenience but the most important thing to consider in that situation is your own health.

To find out more about Mental Health Awareness Week and how you can manage or reduce your stress, click here.

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