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Workplace Stress: Tips and Advice

Say bon voyage to workplace stress with some of our top tips.

Workplace stress is commonplace and it can have a detrimental effect on an individual’s emotional and physical wellbeing, productivity and relationships. In 2016–2017, work-related stress, depression, and anxiety accounted for nearly half of all working days lost.*

We all have a responsibility to support our colleagues and employees, to look out for them and offer help when needed. While you can’t control everything at work, there are ways to protect yourself from feeling overwhelmed and reaching crisis point. Here are some simple ways to avoid stress, courtesy of Samartians

1. Work smarter, not harder

Working smarter means prioritising and focusing on fewer goals, rather than multitasking.

A good starting point is using your calendar to prioritise your time. Block out your lunch break and chunks of time to complete larger tasks, to avoid back-to-back meetings.

Where possible, don’t answer emails as soon as they pop up. It sets a precedent and makes it very difficult to focus on larger tasks. Allocate time in the day to deal with non-urgent emails.

Try developing a routine at the end of each day. This could be tidying up your desk or writing a list of priority tasks to complete the next day, which can prevent you from worrying about your workload on the way home.

Balancing work and family pressures can be tough. If you have a lot going on in your personal life, tell your line manager. Be honest with yourself and with your manager about what is and isn’t possible.

2. Focus on the positive

Accept the things you can’t change about your job. Try not to get involved in internal politics and avoid negative office gossip.

Instead, focus on the parts of your job you enjoy and that you can control. For example, building positive relationships with your colleagues, setting goals that interest you or taking advantage of any company perks.

Try to stay positive even in stressful situations. Keep a calm exterior, take a breath and think rationally about the situation. Take a walk or make a cup of tea to reflect – you don’t always need to respond straight away.

3. Reward yourself

Rewarding yourself after completing a task can improve motivation and productivity. It can be something simple like taking a break when you finish a job, going for a walk to get some fresh air or treating yourself to a nice lunch.

Do something you enjoy on the way home to mark the end of the day. Listen to music or a podcast, read a book or call a friend or family member to catch up.

4. Talk to someone

Although three out of five employees have experienced mental health issues due to work, only one in ten feel able to tell their line manager or HR**.

Try to develop positive relationships with your colleagues. Talking to someone – whether it’s your line manager or a friendly colleague – can often make a big difference. They may not be able to solve your problems, but it could help to alleviate some of the pressure.

Equally, look out for your fellow colleagues and don’t be afraid to ask them if they’re okay if you think they’re struggling. Often people just want to know that someone cares.

5. Be healthy

Eat well, be more active and get a good night’s sleep. Most of us have good intentions to be healthy but long working hours, family commitments and commutes often get in the way.

If you can’t make time for exercise, try and fit it into your daily routine. This could mean walking or cycling all or part of the way to work, doing ten minutes of stretches in the morning or simply taking the stairs rather than the lift.

Avoid reaching for the office chocolates or cakes when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Instead, keep a healthy snack like nuts or fruit by your desk.

And finally, resist the urge to check your emails just before bed. It will only disrupt your sleep and make you irritable and unable to focus.

6. Establish boundaries

Think about your own personal boundaries and what would help reduce your stress. This could be switching off emails in the evening, taking a full lunch break, leaving on time or just saying ‘no’ more often.

Setting boundaries in itself can be difficult so try introducing them gradually. For example, aim to go home on time a couple of days each week, stop checking emails in the evening or aim for one meeting-free day a week.

It’s easy to fall into bad habits when your colleagues regularly work late or check emails out of hours. Try and resist the pressure to do the same. It can help to think of someone you think has healthy boundaries and try to emulate them. Think about how they would respond to certain situations.

7. Avoid perfection

Do your best but try not to constantly strive for perfection. Start by being clear on your job description and what’s expected of you. Ask your line manager to set you objectives and agree on goals and KPIs for larger tasks so everyone agrees on what success looks like.

Taking on too much is one of the biggest causes of workplace stress. If you’re already busy with a large project, say ‘no’ to other tasks until it’s done.

Looking for more advice?

If you need more support for managing stress or you need someone to talk to, the Samaritans are there to help. Contact them directly on 116 123.

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