With Stress Awareness Week taking place this week and November often being a month known for its grey and dreary weather, end of year deadlines and stress associated with the Christmas build up – there’s no better time to stop and reflect on our stress levels and general mood. What’s more, why not use this week as an excuse to focus on some self-care and putting yourself first.
Build a support network
It’s only normal that as individuals, we go through both good and bad days. This is why building a support network is crucial to ensure we can get through those tougher times with a strong system of support around us.
The workplace is a good place to start. Most organisations today have systems in place to support employees who may be feeling stressed or overworked. This could range from an EAP (Employee Assistance Programme) with a free helpline and counseling, to mental first aiders on-site or online GPs available to all members of staff on the go.
For example, Innocent Drinks, give all their employees a free gym membership encouraging them to enjoy a proper break over lunch or after work, and Netflix has an unlimited vacation scheme in place offering new parents up to one year paid time off (a rare thing, particularly in the US). From a personal perspective, don’t be afraid to reach out to a colleague you look up to, as they may be able to mentor you and share their own experiences of dealing with stress.
Beware of burnout
Secondly, taking the time to reflect on how you are feeling day to day is crucial to prevent becoming burnt out in the workplace. Recently classified by The World Health Organisation (WHO) as an ‘occupational phenomenon’, burnout is becoming commonplace in many workplaces today and is something to be conscious of.
To prevent yourself becoming at risk of burnout – make sure you’re taking enough time off to recharge your batteries and completely switch off. Also be conscious of negative patterns that may have emerged in your working life such as regularly staying late in the office, constantly skipping lunch, replying to emails during weekends and feeling the need to check Slack outside regular office hours.
It’s also a good idea to reflect on your time management skills. With 64 per cent of employees claiming that their personal smartphone usage at work distracts them – turning off your phone from time to time could be a good way to focus on the task at hand and finish off your work as soon as possible.
Making simple changes to your working habits should lead to improvements. For example, prioritise taking a lunch break. A showed that most people complete just three hours of productive work on average in an 8-hour work day, which makes a strong argument for, at the very least, carving out the time to take a proper lunch break. Who knows, it may even result in greater productivity for you too!
Don’t be afraid to communicate
Finally, don’t be afraid to communicate with your manager about your workload if you’re feeling overwhelmed. An idea may be to start a ‘stress tracker’ where you can note down the tasks or situations that make you feel this way. These could be anything from unrealistic targets to public speaking or a particular part of your job that you dislike. Doing this exercise could help you figure out the triggers of your stress and will create discussion points when you speak to your manager.
For example, for many employees their commute to work is something that causes them a significant amount of stress daily. Flexible working at least once a week could be a way to reduce this stress. Not only that, but you are likely to be more productive as a result and save on other costs such as childcare, given that flexible working often provides employees with the option to work outside the usual 9-5pm.
HR department should have strategies in place and further ideas to share on how to support employees if you are feeling overworked.
Remember to pause and reflect on the positives too! It’s only natural that as humans we sometimes only focus on bad things and forget about the achievements we have accomplished. So sometimes, stopping and reflecting on good work will positively impact your day and reduce your stress levels.
And finally, you’re not alone. Mind’s latest workplace wellbeing index found that almost half (48 per cent) of UK employees have experienced poor mental health, such as stress, low mood, and anxiety, while working at their current organisation. It’s crucial to remind ourselves about this – we are all in this together and by sharing our problems and stresses, we can help better solve each others problems..