Managing stress at work

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Stress is part of everyday life, some stress is beneficial and motivating but when feelings of stress become overwhelming, it can have a huge impact on a person’s mental wellbeing. Recognising the signs and getting in early can prevent feelings from spiralling. Taking steps to manage stress in the workplace is important for both employers and employees to create a mentally healthy working environment where people feel supported.

According to HSE, 526,000 workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016/17, losing companies in the UK 12.5 million working days that year. Not only that, presenteeism is also becoming a bigger issue within the workplace, with employees turning up to work but finding themselves unmotivated, tired and stressed. This has an obvious impact on workers’ productivity levels, resulting in added costs for employers.

We all deal with stress in different ways, but there are small changes everyone can make to ensure that stress is managed in a healthy and effective manner. Here, we take a look at some simple methods to put into action straight away.

Recognise the signs of stress
Understanding the root cause of your stress can be an important factor in helping to overcome it. Writing down your thoughts and feelings on a situation and the circumstances surrounding can help you to better understand why you are feeling how you are. At Bruntwood we’ve had writing workshops to encourage people to put thoughts on paper and used free writing techniques to encourage unblocking confused thinking. By working out what it is that you find stressful, you should hopefully be able to make changes to help you cope in these situations. If it helps, talk to your manager or a friend at work to figure out if there are things that you can be doing together to manage the situations.

Building resilience
Once you’ve recognised the types of situations that are causing you stress, developing your resilience skills can help you to respond to them more positively. Building resilience will help you to take a more stable approach to stress and minimise the impact on your emotional, physical and mental wellbeing. Being resilient doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly be immune to stress, but you will be able to adapt more effectively to challenges and stressful situations.

In the workplace, one great way of being more resilient is by learning to take control of situations. Whether this is learning how to say no to unrealistic deadlines or simply being more assertive when communicating with others, having more control over your work will give you a sense of empowerment and help to approach your tasks more effectively.
Resilience can take time to build up, so don’t expect changes overnight. Persevere with the coping strategies and you’ll soon find yourself reacting better to stressful situations.

Build a supportive culture
Shaping an open culture of vulnerability and trust amongst colleagues takes time but there are things businesses can do to encourage it. At Bruntwood, we have monthly time set aside for small groups of colleagues to meet and share challenges that they are facing. The groups are also given budget to spend time together in a relaxing environment outside of work, which helps to deepen their relationships and connections.

We also bring this trust into our company meetings. Employees are encouraged to take part in ‘check-ins’ at the start of meetings to make sure everyone is aware of any distractions people have that may impact on how they behave when in the room. It is examples like these which demonstrate the behaviours that are encouraged by our business, then inspiring others to try their own ideas.

Look after your physical health
Not only is physical health good for our bodies, it’s also good for our mind. Stress relief is one of the most common ways in which exercise can benefit our mental health, increasing levels of norepinephrine which can moderate the brain’s response to stress. Exercise also releases those good old endorphins, creating feelings of happiness and euphoria. 

Taking time to exercise on a regular basis can also help you at work. Research shows that workers who take part in physical activity are more productive and have more energy than their sedentary colleagues. Sure, it can sometimes feel like hard work to fit in that morning jog or after work weights session, but the inspiration you get back in the office should make it worthwhile. If strenuous exercise isn’t your thing, why not try yoga? Relatively low impact in most cases, yoga also helps promote relaxation and spiritual wellbeing.

We’ve found walking meetings encourage people to move but also changes the dynamic of a conversation and people are often inspired to be more open.

Ask for support
Finally, don’t be afraid of asking for support. Everyone needs help from time to time, and discussing your workload with your manager is important if you’re struggling. Simply getting your worries off your chest can help, and together you can work to set realistic targets.

If it gets to the point where you don’t think you can speak to your manager, try speaking or writing to your HR department. Connecting with other colleagues can also have huge benefits, providing you with a support network, making time at work more enjoyable.

Taking these small steps can make a huge difference in helping to tackle stress and build resilience in the workplace. But don’t forget, there’s also measures you can take within your workplace to positively impact your mental wellbeing. Find out more as we take a look at how office environment can impact your employees’ mental health.

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