Keeping on top of workplace stress Keeping on top of workplace stress

Keeping on top of workplace stress
26 Jun 2018

Stress is a big part of many people’s lives. Everyday situations can cause us to feel stressed, ranging from panic on realising your alarm clock has failed to go off to getting stuck in huge traffic jams when trying to get to work.

Most of the time, this kind of stress is not actually bad for us. Known as eustress, the initial flood of cortisol you feel as you grasp you are late is what motivates and helps you adjust to new situations, or keeps you alert when negotiating lanes of traffic.

But when stress becomes a long-term state such as often occurs in the workplace, it can become chronic and, therefore, problematic, posing a threat to both your psychological and physical health. Some 40% of employees in North America, for example, say they find their jobs stressful, with a huge 25% saying work is actually their main stressor.

Here we look at some of the most common types of workplace stress and what can be done to combat it:

The demands of the job

If you feel you are floundering under the weight of numerous demands, stress is sure to follow - and this is as true within the workplace as it is out of it. Most people perceive that they possess certain resources, such as their time and physical, mental and emotional energy. Work makes demands on these resources, and if such demands are too high, stress will result.

For instance, if you have just started a new job, taken a promotion or are just experiencing a very busy period, you may begin to question your own capabilities in dealing with the demands being placed upon you. But it is important to remember that this feeling of stress is only your own perception at this particular time and does not reflect on your actual ability to do the job.

Often our harshest critic is the one within. But when demands are such that they endanger our wellbeing, asking for additional support should never be perceived as failure.

Culture

Stress levels and quality of life go hand in hand, and one of the biggest contributors to quality of life in the workplace is culture. Cultures amount to how it feels to work at any given organisation, what they stand for, what they believe in, what their values are and how they treat their employees.

While you may not be able to specifically verbalise what your organisation’s culture comprises, you will probably have formed a perception of what its climate is like and how it makes you feel. Everything from leadership style to practical things such as workplace layout can have an impact on culture.

But it is important for managers to appreciate that stress generated by workplace culture can feel overwhelming to employees due to the assumption that there is little they can do to change the situation, which quickly leads to chronic stress. As a result, it helps if employees are willing to provide feedback on their experience through formal evaluation programmes or on an informal basis with their manager or HR department.

Colleagues

Social support acts as a huge buffer against stress. On feeling stressed, we may go down the route of plotting revenge on the individual who makes us feel that way or choose to withdraw entirely in the hope of protecting ourselves from further harm. What most of us also do instinctively is to offload to a friend or colleague.

But if friction exists between colleagues and it is they who are actually causing our stress, the situation can have a detrimental effect on our wellbeing. Therefore, having someone impartial and discreet to talk to outside of work can prove immensely helpful as having this kind of social support should help us manage our stress levels more effectively.

Managers can also help here by providing their employees with the tools required, which include communication and effective problem-solving skills, to help them relate to each other more effectively.

Motivation

Another source of stress in the workplace, and a fundamental one, is not enjoying your job. Roles alter, people change and a position that you once enjoyed can end up feeling distinctly uninteresting.

But studies have shown that low motivation at work produces high stress levels so it is worthwhile looking at the reasons behind your lack of enthusiasm. Have you grown out of the role? Is there uncertainty over the future of your job? Are you feeling run-down or tired generally? Or is something making you feel disenchanted?

Asking yourself these questions can help ensure you take appropriate action to rectify the problem. For example, exercise is brilliant for both increasing energy levels and beating stress so, if possible, try to fit some in during the working day. Many leisure centres and health clubs offer 30-minute lunchtime fitness classes too or you could just take a lunchtime walk.

Home life

None of us work in a vacuum. This means that on going to work, we take feelings of stress relating to family or finance with us, even though such feelings did not actually originate there. Indeed, we can become immersed in a cycle of stress from trying to balance our jobs with our family commitments, such as caring for children or elderly relatives.

But managers can assist here by introducing initiatives such as flexible working to alleviate some of the pressure. If your home life is a key stressor, try out a range of different methods of stress relief, such as meditation or yoga, until you find one that feels right to you. But understanding what your stressors are is the first place is the initial step to managing them more effectively and preventing them from taking hold elsewhere.

Conclusion

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to combatting stress - if there were, it would be easy to eradicate. Instead managing stress is often about changing your perception of it and seeing it for what it is - as either a symptom of something else or something that can help us feel more energised and adaptable to change.

 Stephanie Varda

Stephanie Varda  is a life coach and stress expert. She helps clients identify the behaviours, feelings and symptoms that relate to stress and provides them with stress management techniques. Stephanie also offers an image consultancy in order to interrupt negative reoccurring patterns and give people the confidence to enjoy life to its fullest.

 

Stress is a big part of many people’s lives. Everyday situations can cause us to feel stressed, ranging from panic on realising your alarm clock has failed to go off to getting stuck in huge traffic jams when trying to get to work.

Most of the time, this kind of stress is not actually bad for us. Known as eustress, the initial flood of cortisol you feel as you grasp you are late is what motivates and helps you adjust to new situations, or keeps you alert when negotiating lanes of traffic.

But when stress becomes a long-term state such as often occurs in the workplace, it can become chronic and, therefore, problematic, posing a threat to both your psychological and physical health. Some 40% of employees in North America, for example, say they find their jobs stressful, with a huge 25% saying work is actually their main stressor.

Here we look at some of the most common types of workplace stress and what can be done to combat it:

The demands of the job

If you feel you are floundering under the weight of numerous demands, stress is sure to follow - and this is as true within the workplace as it is out of it. Most people perceive that they possess certain resources, such as their time and physical, mental and emotional energy. Work makes demands on these resources, and if such demands are too high, stress will result.

For instance, if you have just started a new job, taken a promotion or are just experiencing a very busy period, you may begin to question your own capabilities in dealing with the demands being placed upon you. But it is important to remember that this feeling of stress is only your own perception at this particular time and does not reflect on your actual ability to do the job.

Often our harshest critic is the one within. But when demands are such that they endanger our wellbeing, asking for additional support should never be perceived as failure.

Culture

Stress levels and quality of life go hand in hand, and one of the biggest contributors to quality of life in the workplace is culture. Cultures amount to how it feels to work at any given organisation, what they stand for, what they believe in, what their values are and how they treat their employees.

While you may not be able to specifically verbalise what your organisation’s culture comprises, you will probably have formed a perception of what its climate is like and how it makes you feel. Everything from leadership style to practical things such as workplace layout can have an impact on culture.

But it is important for managers to appreciate that stress generated by workplace culture can feel overwhelming to employees due to the assumption that there is little they can do to change the situation, which quickly leads to chronic stress. As a result, it helps if employees are willing to provide feedback on their experience through formal evaluation programmes or on an informal basis with their manager or HR department.

Colleagues

Social support acts as a huge buffer against stress. On feeling stressed, we may go down the route of plotting revenge on the individual who makes us feel that way or choose to withdraw entirely in the hope of protecting ourselves from further harm. What most of us also do instinctively is to offload to a friend or colleague.

But if friction exists between colleagues and it is they who are actually causing our stress, the situation can have a detrimental effect on our wellbeing. Therefore, having someone impartial and discreet to talk to outside of work can prove immensely helpful as having this kind of social support should help us manage our stress levels more effectively.

Managers can also help here by providing their employees with the tools required, which include communication and effective problem-solving skills, to help them relate to each other more effectively.

Motivation

Another source of stress in the workplace, and a fundamental one, is not enjoying your job. Roles alter, people change and a position that you once enjoyed can end up feeling distinctly uninteresting.

But studies have shown that low motivation at work produces high stress levels so it is worthwhile looking at the reasons behind your lack of enthusiasm. Have you grown out of the role? Is there uncertainty over the future of your job? Are you feeling run-down or tired generally? Or is something making you feel disenchanted?

Asking yourself these questions can help ensure you take appropriate action to rectify the problem. For example, exercise is brilliant for both increasing energy levels and beating stress so, if possible, try to fit some in during the working day. Many leisure centres and health clubs offer 30-minute lunchtime fitness classes too or you could just take a lunchtime walk.

Home life

None of us work in a vacuum. This means that on going to work, we take feelings of stress relating to family or finance with us, even though such feelings did not actually originate there. Indeed, we can become immersed in a cycle of stress from trying to balance our jobs with our family commitments, such as caring for children or elderly relatives.

But managers can assist here by introducing initiatives such as flexible working to alleviate some of the pressure. If your home life is a key stressor, try out a range of different methods of stress relief, such as meditation or yoga, until you find one that feels right to you. But understanding what your stressors are is the first place is the initial step to managing them more effectively and preventing them from taking hold elsewhere.

Conclusion

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to combatting stress - if there were, it would be easy to eradicate. Instead managing stress is often about changing your perception of it and seeing it for what it is - as either a symptom of something else or something that can help us feel more energised and adaptable to change.

 Stephanie Varda

Stephanie Varda  is a life coach and stress expert. She helps clients identify the behaviours, feelings and symptoms that relate to stress and provides them with stress management techniques. Stephanie also offers an image consultancy in order to interrupt negative reoccurring patterns and give people the confidence to enjoy life to its fullest.