It’s normal to feel a little pressure at work. A certain amount is healthy and helps us to be more productive.
But when the pressure becomes too much, you may begin to feel overwhelmed and stressed. This is when it becomes a problem.
The pandemic hasn't helped, either. Research by HSE revealed that in 2020/1 , 50% of all work-related ill health could be attributed to stress, depression or anxiety (exceeding 2018/9 pre-pandemic levels).
To help you manage stress better, we’ve put together some top tips to help you feel more relaxed at work and get back to what you do best.
Why managing stress is important for business
Stress can affect anyone, in any workplace and at any time. But if it isn't dealt with, it can have catastrophic effects on health, wellbeing and ultimately business productivity.
Research reveals that 12.8 million working days are lost to stress every year. Another survey revealed that 1 in 5 of us call in sick due to stress. The writing's on the wall: stress is damaging to small business success.
The heath risks of workplace stress
Now let’s look at how stress affects us as human beings.
Stress is the human reaction to being overwhelmed or under threat. It’s a natural reflex and is part of what’s called the ‘fight or flight’ response.
But when this becomes repetitive, it takes a big toll on our bodies. Risks include:
- A lowered immune system
- Heart disease
- Poor mental health
- High blood pressure
- Digestive issues
- Fertility problems
Symptoms of workplace stress
When stress hits, it makes itself known. Here are some symptoms to look out for:
- Faster heartbeat than normal
- Upset stomach
- Headaches or dizziness
- Tense or painful muscles
- Difficulty concentrating
- Finding it difficult to make decisions
- Forgetting things
- Worrying a lot
- Being irritable
- Change in appetite
- Engaging in coping behaviours (e.g. drinking, smoking)
9 ways to reduce workplace stress
How to deal with stress at work
Here are our 9 top-tips to help you manage workplace stress.
1. Talk about it
If there’s one thing you take away from this article, let it be this.
They say that a problem shared is a problem halved, and it’s not just a myth. If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, call a friend or family member and talk about it.
Or if you feel comfortable enough talking to your line manager, put a one-to-one meeting in their diary to discuss how you’re feeling. You could also contact helplines like Samaritans to have a chat and offload anonymously.
2. Take regular breaks
Research has found that taking regular breaks from your work actually makes you more productive than if you power through your day.
Why not try the Pomodoro technique? This involves 25 minutes of concentration followed by a 5-minute break and a 15-minute break every 2 hours. And by ‘break’, we mean stepping away from your desk and disconnecting with your work completely.
I’ve tried this myself - it really does work.
3. Create a list
If you’ve got lots of ‘to-dos’ in your head, an easy way to take the pressure off is to write everything down.
If you like to be organised, you could even colour-code each task in order of priority to get your workload in order. Remember to tick them off as you go for that lovely sense of achievement.
Here’s a twist, though: why not create a ‘done’ list, too?
It’s likely that you’ll complete little tasks here and there, as well as working through your to-do list.
Record these in a separate list to keep a note of everything you’ve completed. You’ll feel super-productive and less stressed.
4. Need help? Ask for it
You’re only human and you can only do so much. So, it’s important to identify when you’ve got too much on your plate and you begin to feel stressed.
Your line manager is there to ensure your workload is manageable, so be sure to discuss it with them if it gets too much.
Remember to delegate to your team, too. What tasks are there on your to-do list that someone else could easily take on?
5. Break it down
A big project can easily seem daunting, and it’s easy to let it stress you out.
Take some time to break your projects down into small, bitesize tasks. This will help you to approach at the work in a different way and see it as doable, rather than challenging.
What are the different steps for the project? How long will each one take? What tasks will you set yourself and others in order to tick off each step?
6. Get moving
It’s a known fact that exercise gets endorphins flowing, helps boost your mood and looks after your mental health.
“Doing something physical releases cortisol which helps us manage stress. Being physically active also gives your brain something to focus on and can be a positive coping strategy for difficult times.”
If you’re feeling stressed, make sure you get your body moving. You may not feel like it at first, but pushing yourself to exercise will help you feel better in the long run.
7. Schedule some down-time
Make sure you plan in some ‘me-time’ where you can practice some self-care. The human body can only take on so much, so taking some time to rest and re-charge is essential for managing stress.
By down-time, we don’t mean blocking out an entire evening to chill out on the sofa and binge the latest box-set. Something as simple as a short walk or break during your day can be beneficial. Just make sure you get a breather.
Get some down-time in before bed too to ensure a good night’s sleep. Chill out and do what makes you happy.
Meditating works wonders too- we recommend the Headspace app for a few minutes of peace.
Use your free time at the weekends wisely, too. Household chores and errands may be on your list, but make sure you schedule some time to re-fuel too. We promise your Monday mornings will be more positive and productive.
Eliminating manual admin-tasks can do wonders for your stress levels. Why should you spend more time than you need to on pesky, boring tasks?
If your role (or some of it) is looking after your people, simple HR software could be the answer to your prayers. Breathe allows you to keep all of your people-data in one place, along with documents, training information, holiday requests and so much more. Oh, and it’s super-easy to use, too.
9. Maintain a work-life balance
When you’ve got a lot on your plate at work, it can be easy to work that extra hour in the evenings or check your emails at the weekends.
This is an easy - but dangerous - habit to fall into. Our 2019 Sick Report revealed that an astonishing 50% of the UK workforce regularly work through their breaks and outside of their working hours.
Establishing the line between your work and personal life is crucial for minimising stress and preventing burnout. And you’ll actually find you’re more productive if you stick to your contracted hours.
Why not try keeping track of the hours you’re working and reviewing it after a few weeks? Or you could have a conversation with your colleagues. Do they think you work too much? Small steps like these put you in control of your work-life balance.
Workplace stress is incredibly common, so it’s super-important that you nip it in the bud before it gets serious.
The good news is that by following these steps and working with your line manager, you’ll take control of workplace stress and minimise it as much as possible.
The result? You’ll feel more relaxed, happier and more productive at work.
Author: Sarah Benstead
Sarah is a Product Marketing Specialist here at Breathe. Always innovating, she loves writing about product releases in an engaging and informative way. When she's not coming up with new ideas, she enjoys long walks with her dog, Clifford.