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How to cope with workplace stress

Published: Tuesday 5th November 2019

National Stress Awareness Day takes place on the first Wednesday of November each year in the UK, and the focus is all on supporting employees when it comes to workplace stress and stress management.

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Stress and work go hand-in-hand

Of course, many causes of stress and anxiety originate in the workplace, as much work involves dealing with pressure, deadlines and, often, other stressed colleagues. According to the Health & Safety Executive HSE, 526,000 workers in the UK were suffering from work-related stress and anxiety in 2016/2017, so clearly it’s a big problem.

Workplace stress is often a result of the demands of work and how much autonomy workers have in meeting those demands. The main factors behind stress are overwork, lack of support from management, poor working relationships with colleagues, and change in the workplace, or change in the role of the employee within the organisation. What is certain is, as workload increases, so does the stress level and the chance of making mistakes. Productivity eventually suffers too, so it’s important for both employers and employees to take action to reduce stress in the workplace.

To begin with, managers and workers must be able to recognise stress symptoms in order to address the triggers. In workers, stress can manifest itself through lack of motivation, fatigue, headaches, depression and sleep issues. General signs in the workplace include more conflict, higher rates of absenteeism and sick days, sub-par performance and increased complaints from employees (and customers, if staff are working in a customer-facing environment).

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Creating an action plan for stress relief

While workers can do things to manage their stress level, such as making sure they get enough sleep, exercise, eat properly, practice mindfulness and ask for help when they need it, it’s up to the organisation to create a policy that is proactive in the way it deals with stress.

Employers should start the conversation by promoting awareness of stress, so it isn’t taboo and staff can talk openly about stress and the triggers for it in the workplace. These triggers can be identified through what’s known as a stress risk assessment. Once this is complete, an action plan can be created to tackle the root causes.

Someone, preferably from HR, should be put in charge of the stress management program. Their primary role should be to raise awareness of stress in the workplace and record incidences when they happen, creating solutions to stop it re-occurring and providing updates to staff on how the initiative is going. Good communication and regular meetings between staff and management can do a lot when it comes to introducing effective measures to reduce stress in the workplace with benefits for both workers and the general health of the business.

Beautiful businesswoman meditating at workplace, ignoring work, not listening to annoying clients or bothering colleagues talking to her, sitting at office desk with eyes closed, keep calm, no stress

Of course, if stress is taking too much control of your life, it might be an idea to see your GP. And, if it seems that your employer isn’t dealing with stress issues in the workplace, it might be time to start looking for a new job at Zoek. After all, no job is worth sacrificing your health for.

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