In this difficult economy, you may find it harder than ever to cope with challenges on the job.
Both the stress we take with us when we go to work and the stress that awaits us on the job are on the rise – and employers, managers, and workers all feel the added pressure.
While some stress is a normal part of life, excessive stress interferes with your productivity and reduces your physical and emotional health, so it’s important to find ways to keep it under control. Fortunately, there is a lot that you can do to manage and reduce stress at work.
Coping with work stress in today’s uncertain climate
For workers everywhere, the troubled economy may feel like an emotional roller coaster. "Layoffs" and "budget cuts" have become bywords in the workplace, and the result is increased fear, uncertainty, and higher levels of stress. Since job and workplace stress grow in times of economic crisis, it’s important to learn new and better ways of coping with the pressure. The ability to manage stress in the workplace can make the difference between success or failure on the job. Your emotions are contagious, and stress has an impact on the quality of your interactions with others. The better you are at managing your own stress, the more you'll positively affect those around you and the less other people's stress will negatively affect you.
You can learn how to manage job stress
There are a variety of steps you can take to reduce both your overall stress levels and the stress you find on the job and in the workplace. These include:
• Taking responsibility for improving your physical and emotional well-being.
• Avoiding pitfalls by identifying knee jerk habits and negative attitudes that add to the stress you experience at work.
• Learning better communication skills to ease and improve your relationships with management and coworkers.
Stress management Self-help
It's impossible to escape pressure at work altogether, so you need to learn how to manage stress effectively. There are a number of ways you can reduce the negative impact of stress. Most of these involve taking a good look at how you function at work.
One of the most important factors in reducing stress levels is managing your time more effectively. Prioritise tasks, delegate where you can and make sure you don't take on more work than you can handle. Make sure you take regular breaks at work and try to finish one task before you begin another. Here are some other things that you can do yourself.
• Make sure your work environment is comfortable. If it isn't, ask for help from your organisation's health and safety officer.
• If possible, don't work long hours - sometimes projects need extra time, but working long hours over many weeks or months does not generally lead to more or better results at work.
• Take a look at your relationships with your colleagues - do you treat each other with respect and consideration?
• Find out if your organisation offers flexible working hours.
It's in everyone's interest to keep the workplace as stress-free as possible, and generally, organisations want to keep their employees happy and healthy. Absenteeism costs the UK £11.6bn a year, according to the Confederation of Business and Industry (CBI). If companies have good work-life policies, employees are likely to be healthier and happier and so less likely to take time off work.
If you are suffering from work-related stress, it's important to talk directly to your manager about it. Your manager has a duty to take reasonable steps to try to resolve the problem. Explain how you are feeling and discuss your workload. If you find talking about your concerns difficult, it may help to make notes during your discussion.
It's worth asking if your organisation has any policies on harassment, bullying or racism. What does your company consider acceptable? Find out how to challenge these policies from your human resources department and make sure you know what support there is for you if you decide to do this.
Things you can do outside of work to help reduce your stress levels.
These include the following.
• Get enough exercise - this is known to reduce stress and can help you feel better. It's recommended that you do 30 minutes of exercise each day. Choose an activity you enjoy - a brisk walk is ideal.
• Learn relaxation techniques - this can help you sleep better and relieve stress-related physical pains such as stomach pains and headaches. Ask your GP or your local library for details of classes where you can learn helpful techniques.
• Talk about your stress with a friend or member of the family - this is a good way to get your worries off your chest. It can give you a fresh perspective and help to make stressful situations more manageable.
• Don't drink too much alcohol or caffeine, or smoke. Instead of helping, these stimulants will increase your stress levels.
• Eat regular meals and a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables.
• At the end of each day, reflect on what you've achieved rather than worrying about future work. Don't be too hard on yourself and remember to take each day as it comes.
What are the Management Standards for work related stress?
The Management Standards define the characteristics, or culture, of an organisation where the risks from work related stress are being effectively managed and controlled.
The Management Standards cover six key areas of work design that, if not properly managed, are associated with poor health and well-being, lower productivity and increased sickness absence. In other words, the six Management Standards cover the primary sources of stress at work. These are:
• Demands – this includes issues such as workload, work patterns and the work environment.
• Control – how much say the person has in the way they do their work.
• Support – this includes the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues.
• Relationships – this includes promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour.
• Role – whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that they do not have conflicting roles.
• Change – how organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated in the organisation.
The Management Standards represent a set of conditions that, if present, reflect a high level of health well-being and organisational performance.
The Management Standards:
• demonstrate good practice through a step by step risk assessment approach;
• allow assessment of the current situation using surveys and other techniques;
• promote active discussion and working in partnership with employees to help decide on practical improvements that can be made;
• help simplify risk assessment for work related stress by:
o identifying the main risk factors for work related stress;
o helping employers focus on the underlying causes and their prevention; and
o providing a yardstick by which organisations can gauge their performance in tackling the key causes of stress.