Stress in the workplace can sneak up on the best of us. An inbox full of flagged messages to deal with. Back-to-back meetings and a to-do list which feels never-ending is enough to make anyone feel drained and stressed out.
It’s not unusual for workers to feel under pressure ahead of important deadlines, but when the stress becomes chronic and affects our mental and physical health, it’s time to step back and find a way to manage stress in the workplace.
In this article, we will look at where stress in the workplace comes from and the steps you can take to manage it.
What is stress in the workplace?
The HSE defines workplace stress as: ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them’. Stress tends to affect people at work when they feel overwhelmed by their workloads, lack control over certain situations or have a lot of responsibility to shoulder.
We should highlight it’s normal to experience a small amount of tension or stress at work from time to time. Still, if it starts to affect employees’ happiness and enjoyment of life, it can lead to deeper problems and affect our physical and mental health. A survey from Gallup has revealed that employees have never been more stressed than they are in today’s workplace.
Signs of stress in the workplace
The symptoms of stress at work will vary from employee to employee, so it’s important not to think stress has a one size fits all impact. Here are some of the common signs to watch out for that might suggest you or your colleagues may be affected by workplace stress:
Working long hours
If workers suddenly come in extra early or stay late in the evening, it could indicate that they are struggling to keep on top of their workload, especially if it isn’t a long-standing habit.
People suffering from stress often struggle to sleep at night. If a colleague comes in looking tired day after day and not as a result of painting the town red the previous night, this could be a sign of stress.
Becoming more isolated
If you have a colleague who was previously chatty and confident but has suddenly become withdrawn and chooses to shy away to avoid drawing attention to themselves, it could be a cause of concern. Some employees are shy and quiet in their nature, so you will have to use your best judgement to decide whether the behaviour is normal.
If you or a colleague is suddenly feeling more irritable and pessimistic at work, this can point to stress. If employees display over-the-top reactions to situations they would have previously taken in their stride, things could be getting on top of them.
How to manage stress in the workplace
Identifying that you are feeling stressed at work is the first step towards being able to manage it. Here are some quick tips for managing stress in the workplace to help you get back to your happy, relaxed self.
Make time to recharge
It’s so easy to try and power through your workload when feeling stressed but often, this only compounds the situation, and you’ll end up feeling worse. Instead, schedule regular breaks in your work day, walk around the block, listen to a light-hearted podcast or watch a funny video. Allowing yourself time to switch off from work for a few minutes can have a positive impact.
Refine your time management skills
Sometimes that feeling of being overwhelmed can be the result of poor organisational skills and not knowing where to start. So take a few minutes at the beginning of each week, write a list of priorities, and rank them by importance to give you more focus on the critical tasks.
Improve your work/life balance
Making yourself available around the clock is a sure-fire way to burn yourself out. Create clear boundaries between your work and home life to avoid the lines between the two become blurred. Make time for social activities and schedule time for catching up with friends.
If you are struggling with stress in the workplace, don’t suffer in silence. Talk through feelings of being overwhelmed with your line manager and try to incorporate some of the tips above into your workday to help reduce the chances of stress taking over your life.
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