Everyone deserves to be happy at work.
That includes you.
If you need more persuading, note that companies also benefit from having happy employees, in terms of both morale and a better bottom line.
Stress at work is a common problem – whether in the form of a demanding client, office politics or intense deadline pressure – and you need to know how to deal with it.
In line with mental health awareness week, its the perfect time to tackle stress in the workplace.
Here are our seven top tips for dealing with stress at work:
1. Manage your morning
How you begin your day often sets the tone for the rest of it. So, don’t walk into work frazzled because you’re feeling rushed and frustrated from your morning commute. Sound impossible? Make one or more of these changes and take note of the positive impacts:
Wake up 15 minutes earlier — and leave the house 15 minutes earlier — if you’re perpetually stressed about beating the clock.
Take the time to eat breakfast at home or bring grab-and-go options that you eat on the way to work or when you arrive.
Don’t get slowed down or stressed out by your smartphone. If you must check personal email or social media before work, build in time to do so and limit yourself to a set time period. It may even help to set a timer.
Try to stay calm during your commute. If you’re driving, give yourself ample time, find some tunes or a podcast that boosts your spirits and don’t let traffic stress you out. If you take public transport, bring along something that relaxes you or gets you in a positive mindset for the day.
2. Take periodic breaks
Even if you work long hours, short breaks can offer big health benefits. If you find yourself tethered to your computer for hours at a time, even eating at your desk, try setting an alarm to force yourself to get up at regular intervals. Go on occasional head-clearing strolls, preferably outside. Stretch and do some light exercise. Refill your water bottle. Meet a colleague in the break room for a chat. And choose healthy snacks that will give you sustained energy. If you stay ramped up on caffeine and sugar, you’re bound to crash, which will only amplify your stress.
3. Don’t skip annual leave or check email on holiday
True breaks are needed to fully recharge and recalibrate your approach to the job. Having your feet in the sand but your fingers scrolling through your Outlook calendar is not “disconnecting.” And while you may feel like taking time off will just make your workplace stress even worse when you return, studies have shown that people are happier and more productive when they take time off. If you truly lack the resources to take an extended break, schedule a few long weekends throughout the year or even a mid-week day off here and there to relax and focus on yourself.
4. Never let conflicts fester
Given the amount of time you spend with your colleagues, you’re bound to bump heads from time to time. The problem comes in when the tension is never addressed effectively. Try to nip problems in the bud. Stewing leads to stress, and you risk damaging your own career if you lack the ability to be seen as a team player. Remember: The end goal of conflict management is to resolve the problem, not to win.
5. Set some boundaries
Don’t constantly bring work home. Let that be the exception not the rule. Strive to end your day when you leave the office. If you feel pressure from your employer to be available 24/7, be honest about how that impacts your stress levels. Let your manager know that work-life balance is important to you, not only to reduce stress at work, but also to increase your creativity and productivity. Be upfront about what needs to change if you’re on the road to burnout.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
If you’re working as hard as you can and still feel buried in projects, don’t suffer in silence. Your manager can’t help you if he or she is not aware of the problem. Before you set up a meeting, think of a few solutions you can suggest that would ease your pressure, such as offloading some of the work to a temporary or interim professional or adjusting deadlines. And it never hurts to try some different time management tactics or experiment with new ways to prioritize projects.
7. Enter your week with a positive attitude
Get the most out of your entire weekend so you can enter the workweek recharged and refocused. Before you leave work on Friday, straighten up your workspace, tend to any unanswered emails that threaten to nag you throughout the weekend and make a to-do list for Monday morning. Schedule time for activities and relaxation each day of the weekend. And don’t succumb to the Sunday night blues. If you find your stress levels rising Sunday afternoon, make fun plans for that evening to take your mind off your job. Otherwise, you risk not only jeopardising your personal time, but also waking up on Monday in a state of stress.
Stress at work is a career-long battle for many people, and it will inevitably ebb and flow throughout your life. For the sake of your health and happiness, it’s worth making the time and effort to keep it at bay.
About the author
Rachel Stockell is Senior Manager of OfficeTeam, Robert Half UK