Stress is a difficult topic to address. Most of us will admit that we are stressed and that source of our stress is probably to do with work (maybe because we seem to spend so much time at work), but there may be a common misconception that work-related stress is something solely to do with us, and nothing to do with our employer.
Work-related stress is a serious issue for both your health and your employer.
The Health and Safety Executive has issued standards for assessing the risks of work-related stress:
The Standards look at the demands made on employees; the level of control employees have over their work; the support employees receive from managers and colleagues; the clarity of an employee’s role within the organisation; the nature of relationships at work; and the way that change is managed.
Someone makes a decision in a company and the effects can be far reaching and not fully anticipated. If you are experiencing any change within your working day it can have a diverse effect on you and your health. Work-related stress is a serious condition which your employer has to act upon.
My initial thoughts on work-related stress is as follows: (this does not constitute legal advice and you follow this advice at your own risk)
* Make sure you take proper breaks from work and recover fully from a day before starting the next day, particularly if your job involves travelling. Aim to work your normal hours although this may not be immediately possible.
* If you have a long list of things to do and you find it overwhelming, then at the start of the day pick three things from the list that you must achieve by the end of the day. (Some will say pick six then you will do half, I suggest start with three, if you can’t get three done, then just pick one, even though you might be adding ten things to the list. It’s the psychological action of crossing off one thing will make you feel better – believe me!).
* Take a holiday or some sort of break from work – even if it is just an afternoon off to do something different out of your normal schedule. Go to the cinema, go shopping with a friend, spend time with your family. Aim to do an activity that will occupy your mind with something else so you can’t think about work. A solitary activity will tend to give you ‘thinking time’ which you want to leave for the next step.
* Once you’ve taken a break, take some thinking time either by going for a walk, going to the gym, getting some fresh air or exercise. Yes, a treat in your favourite coffee shop or place is acceptable but watch the caffeine and the alcohol – both may affect your blood pressure and stress levels. If your head is still buzzing with work ideas and thoughts then take a blank notepad and a pen and write down everything that is swimming around. Aim to think calmly about situations and alternatives and look at the bigger picture. See if you can analyse what is going wrong. Is it too much work? Too little time? Too many deadlines? Boredom?
* Get some rest and some sleep. Don’t use the computer or the TV at least thirty minutes before going to bed at night. If you wake up and find yourself wanting to pace the floor and trying to have all those work conversations over and over again, leave a notepad by your bed and write everything down instead of regurgitating it. Get it out of your head and then you may start to relax. It is not going to be easy to let go of all that tension, particularly as it has probably built up over a prolonged period of time; you didn’t wake up one morning with work-related stress, it has been niggling at you for ages.
* Your employer should have a company policy about work-related stress. Find out what it is, and how you follow the procedure. Decide whether you wish to go down this route.
* Find someone to talk to about your situation. I offer in depth help with work-related stress, where we can talk through particular incidents, emails, letters, projects, scenarios, all in complete confidence, we look at possible resolutions and at how you can build in some stress-defences.
I understand that the legal situation on work-related stress is that if you tell your employer then they are liable for it. If you are diagnosed and don’t tell your employer then they cannot be held liable for your stress. You should take proper legal advice before deciding on your course of action. My service supports you whatever personal decision you take.
Whatever the cause of your work-related stress (or if you simply want to reclaim your work-life balance), then I may be able to help. I will give you careers-based counselling through the issues that seem to be the root cause of the stress. We can discuss in detail the frustrations that you are finding in your daily life, look at the possible solutions and outcomes and then I can coach you through this frustrating period in your life. Together we can look at it all – and this is where my unique knowledge of publishing comes in – as we can discuss the needs and wants of the business, the demands of your role within the company, and your own personal pressures of wanting to do a good job.