A recent survey shows that 35% of people feel stressed at work, and over 480,000 people in the UK reported that work-related stress was making them ill. That’s nearly 40% of all work-related sickness.
Some are anxious, unable to remain calm, panicked, depressed or they have the physical symptoms of stress such as stomach related issues (IBS), heart disease and back problems. It’s quite a shocking statistic isn’t it.
So, what causes stress at work?
If we start with looking at the demands of the job, we can become overloaded with the amount or type of work we are given. Work just gets loaded on to us for a variety of reasons such as we can do it or someone has left, it is urgent or we are the only person who can do the work.
When our managers aren’t supportive or we feel we cannot tell them how we feel, we often find ourselves keeping these issues to ourselves and not raising problems. For some of us, we seek out fellow stressed teammates and start to moan about the situation and, therefore, we end up making each other feel much worse as well.
The level of control and autonomy we have over work will affect our stress levels if we feel we have no say in our workload or work type and we feel unheard or unappreciated. Then, over time, this can lead to us to not performing as well as we could, or becoming stressed at our feeling of powerlessness.
Bullying, harassment, favouritism and bad behaviour (homophobia, misogyny etc) all lead to stress and even fear at work.
All businesses and services have to change to remain viable, but how that change is handled by the company has a massive effect on us. Uncertainty and insecurity are massive drivers of stress and depression.
Not knowing what is expected from us or how we fit in to our workplace is also a cause for stress and confusion.
We can tell when a workplace has a stressful culture as there is a high staff turnover, arguments, high levels of sickness, complaints, long hours and grievances. Both ourselves and our colleagues will be withdrawn, moody, unmotivated and quick to become emotional such as angry or tearful etc.
There are of course many more reasons for us to become stressed at work and these issues will affect our physical and mental health. So, what should we do?
Firstly, from a practical point of view, our employer has a legal obligation to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its employees. As part of this, they must conduct risk assessments for work-related stress and take actions to prevent us from experiencing a stress-related illness because of our work. We need to speak up about the levels of stress we are feeling and report them to our manager, HR or trade union. Our employer needs to put a plan in place to support us through the stress, remove the stress or deal with the issues that are causing the stress. But we must tell someone first.
Once we recognise that we have work-related stress we can start to act to look after ourselves. Some really good strategies are –
- We need to sit down and really look at what makes us stressed, how much is driven by our workplace and what do we drive ourselves? Does everything have to be perfect? Does everything have to be done by us? Can we say no? Then we can look as to how much we contribute to our own stress.
- Work-life balance is important. How many of us work at a place where there is a long hour’s culture? We need to develop our boundaries by finishing on time and taking our breaks, no matter what others may say or do. We should claim back any extra time we put in order to complete a particular project, and we should always remember to reward ourselves for a job well done and not just move on to the next item on the to do list.
- Holidays and breaks are important to all of us to recharge our batteries. We are entitled to paid holidays and should take them throughout the year.
- We have a life outside of work, hobbies, family, friends etc. so we do not become our job.
- At the end of today we can make our to do list for tomorrow and then we can turn off work until tomorrow
- Using mindfulness will keep us in the moment by no worrying about the past or the future. Check out You tube for some easy mindfulness techniques.
- Develop supportive relationships outside of work so there are others who can supports us who have nothing to do with our job.
Of course, this will only work if your stress is short term or is dealt with by the company pretty quickly. If your workplace does not accept or recognise the issue the stress will continue and eventually you will see the physical and emotional side effects.
Then it’s time to consult your GP or get some help from a counsellor or even better, do both!
Look at your options even if you feel you have no choice, check out what you can do, what control you can take of the situation and what you can do long term. Even leaving your role for another role.
If you feel you want some help with stress check out my new website or drop me an email/message
07769 152 951