Some stress is good for us; it keeps us on our toes, allows us to think outside the box and come up with new, innovative ideas on occasion. However, a recent survey on work-related stress, anxiety and depression (the Labour Force Survey 2016) found that the number of days lost in 2016 due to stress-related issues was 11.7 million days, equating to 45% of all working days lost to ill-health.
Let's look at four areas where there can be stress in the workplace.
Stress and your work. Do you feel that you understand what is expected of you, that you've been trained well enough? Perhaps you feel that your work is mundane, that your boss doesn't pass on the interesting or challenging tasks, preferring to keep them for him or herself. Those employees who have no responsibility or autonomy can become increasingly stressed, bored or frustrated.
A lack of recognition and appreciation can also result in people feeling stressed. What can be done about it, are there ways to resolve this matter? You could suggest team meetings, social events or group training exercises, especially if you're part of a business that works part-time, varied shift patterns or random hours.
Could you speak to the human resources department? Does your company have a staff appraisal scheme to monitor and motivate staff? If so, you could use this as an opportunity to flag up your desire for more training or greater challenges and responsibility.
- Stress and your colleagues and co-workers. Many people make good friends at work, on the basis that they spend more time there than anywhere else. But sometimes bosses, colleagues and co-workers can be the source of much stress. Personalities and egos can run amok in a work environment, causing anger, frustration and sleepless nights.
Sometimes it's important to step back from our work relationships and assess what they really mean to us, how much of ourselves we're disclosing, compromising or perhaps selling ourselves short. It's interesting that when an ex-colleague returns to visit there's frequently little to discuss beyond the initial pleasantries; work relationships can be transient.
If your relationships at work are stressful try to deal with the underlying reasons. If someone's attitude is bullying or aggressive decide to keep a log of their behaviour, along with dates and times. This evidence can support any complaint you may choose to make in the future and help you to feel more in control.
If you find your co-workers to be an impenetrable clique that you can't or don't want to join, find positive ways to entertain yourself during breaks. Or perhaps you're stressed because you're regularly given the unpleasant, boring or thankless jobs. Find ways to address this by speaking up, becoming more assertive or finding an ally.
What about times when you feel isolated and alone in the workplace? An increasing number of people work by themselves, either from home or as consultants, perhaps frequently commuting away from home. It can be stressful and lonely at times. Finding a shared or co-working, hot-desking office to work from can add companionship and support.
- Stress and Sunday nights. 25% adults struggle with Sunday night insomnia, stressed about Monday's commute to work, finding a parking space or what to expect during the coming week. The workplace can become less stressful by introducing advance planning, perhaps taking thirty minutes on a Sunday afternoon to check emails, plan your diary and run through an overview of the forthcoming days. Then if new, unexpected items arise, you'll have a clearer idea of how and where to fit them into your schedule. And you should sleep better, too, on those Sunday nights.
- Stress and your work/life balance. It can be tough to focus on work if you've distractions at home or in your personal life. If you've got issues with your partner, children, close friends or elderly relatives it can be hard to concentrate on doing a good job, especially if you feel unsupported, unappreciated or that your work has little real value or relevance.
Communicate your concerns. Partners will usually understand if you discuss how you're feeling. Bosses at work may be sympathetic if you share that you're going through a difficult, short-term problem. Consider ways to manage the situation. Might it be valid to work part-time for a while, occasionally work from home or ask for more support?
Learning to be more assertive about your free and personal time may enable you to find ways to enjoy some stress free fun and relaxation. Then you can share your time with the people who matter, doing what you enjoy.
In spite of everything it may be that you feel the best option is for you to change your job. Yes, some stress can be good for us; it tests us, pushes us to greater endeavours, but as a long-term way of life stress becomes harmful and damaging to our mental and physical health.