Are you dealing with stress at work?

By Robert Half on 15th March 2017

Beyond a micromanaging boss and looming deadlines, there are many subtle yet insidious contributors of work stress. Eliminating work stress completely may not be possible but pinning down the sneaky contributors of stress and kicking them to the curb can improve your day and maximise your work performance, engagement and overall workplace happiness.

Dr. Christine Carter, Sociologist and senior fellow, Greater Good Science Centre at the University of California, Berkeley was quoted in our report, The secrets of the happiest companies and employees on the link between positive emotions and success at work. Employees who experience a lot of positive emotions have critical resources that unhappy workers don’t. “You have greater access to the parts of the brain that you need to innovate, to be creative and to be more empathetic. And you’re going to function much better in a team environment because your social intelligence will go way, way up....This won’t be possible if [employees] are stressed."

Read on to see if you can identify with these issues, and find out how you can reduce your stress at work while improving your workplace happiness.

From mess to stress

If you’re the sort to regularly use the term “organised chaos” to justify the fact that you no longer know what colour your desk is, well, we’ve got bad news.

Researchers at UCLA have found just merely looking at clutter can kick-start your body’s production of stress hormones. Your mess has probably taken some time to build up but it won’t take long to undo. Throw out outdated material, scan and keep soft copies of what you may need in the future and put your stationery into the drawer. Make sure to clear your virtual desktop of unnecessary icons and folders as well to reduce stress at work.

Friction at the office

Relationships with co-workers can sour due to issues like differences in working styles or just plain impatience. Whether it’s constantly tip-toeing around them or wondering if they are holding back your progress, combat this source of work stress before it eats away at your mental and physical well-being or affects your job satisfaction. According to our report, having good relationships at work are 2.7 times more likely to be happy in their jobs.

Co-workers can be a great source of support during stressful periods so try to put aside your differences. Schedule a time to hash things out with the other party privately. Even if the prospect of doing so is daunting, a frank but respectful chat can improve the situation.

You. Yes, you.

Many of us are fond of using the refrain, “I’m sooo stressed!” at work but it is possible that we can be our own sources of stress too. Everyone has their own unique stressors and thresholds but some are more prone to anxiety or over-worrying. Stress can manifest itself in a variety of health issues, such as digestive problems, insomnia, headaches and skin problems like eczema. These health problems will definitely cause your existing stress levels to rise.

Avoid a toxic cycle of worry and self-sabotage by managing your time well, accepting that (some) mistakes are part of learning, and reminding yourself of the reasons why you chose your current career. Tackle one task at a time to prevent being spread too thin. 

Another way to manage your stresses of life can be to review your work-life balance strategies

No time for family

Home is supposed to be a sanctuary where we unwind. But often, many of us are struck with feelings of guilt the moment we get home because of the amount of work left to be done at the office. There’s also the guilt that comes with not spending enough time with our partners and/or children. These negative feelings will eventually take their toll on your mental health and create more stress.

Instead of wallowing in guilt and regret, work towards spending less time in the office by speaking to your boss, exercising better time management or delegating some work away.  Also, don’t forget to leave any work stress at the office so that you can spend real “quality time” with your family at home.

Related: 8 tips to help you leave work on time (today!)

It might be time to ask for help

If your stress at work if being caused by the fact that your to-do list is never-ending, you have projects that have conflicting deadlines or you have cyclical peak times in your workloads, it may be time to ask your manager for support. They will be able to review your current workloads and help you to priorities your efforts. Through the insight you provide, you may be able to help your manager build a business case to bring in a new employee either on a permanent or temporary-basis to support your current workload.

It's best to avoid burnout

Though most of us have methods for dealing with times of high stress, avoiding workplace burnout isn’t always easy. Face it; there are probably times when you’re a bona fide workaholic. But you don't always need to manage this on your own. But if you’re looking for a less-stressful lifestyle, it’s vital to manage your time well, set boundaries and establish methods you can use to help prevent the dreaded burnout that comes from working too hard for too long.


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