Six Steps to a stress-free workplace
Stress Awareness Month 2023
April is Stress Awareness Month. This year’s theme is Action Changes Things (ACT) – taking a look at the steps and conscious changes we can make to reduce stress both in our personal and professional lives. In this blog we highlight some of the small steps you can take to make your work-life balance that little bit less stressful to manage.
The Global Burnout Study in 2022 found that employee burnout has increased by 5% in just 12 months. Out of 3,000 participants across 30 countries, the research identified the following statistics.
- 60% of those involved in the study were more likely to take a sick day
- 23% were more likely to visit A&E
- 40% of people identified burnout as the reason for leaving their job in 2021
To avoid stress becoming ‘burnout’, it’s important that we’re able to manage stress in a way that is beneficial to us. There may be times when stress is predictable, such as meetings with managers and dealing with difficult clients or colleagues. In some cases, it is unavoidable but being able to take control of our reactions can help better manage these situations and ensure stress levels remain low. Taking action is all about the actions you can take to prevent stressful situations, reduce feelings of stress and avoid stress becoming a serious health risk. The actions or steps you can take include:
Be more physically active
Taking physical action is a proven way to combat stress. This doesn’t have to be excessive activity; anything from a lunchtime stroll to choosing stairs instead of the lift can have a positive impact on both physical and mental health.
It can be a good way to involve all the team, too. Why not have ‘walk and talk’ meetings, or take meetings offsite in a walking distance to get those all important steps in? Exercise is a great way to balance your mood and actively supports the production of endorphins; hormones that make us feel positive. Introducing this into your workplace culture not only shows that you care about the wellbeing of your teams, it also means you’re creative a positive workplace culture.
Lead a healthier lifestyle
The food and drink we consume can have a major impact on both our physical and mental health. Not eating a balanced and nutritional diet can have an adverse effect on our mood and how we feel, overall. Healthier and more natural sources of sugar and fat help to maintain consistent energy levels, which reduces those mid-afternoon crashes and slumps.
Making a conscious effort to cut down on cigarettes and alcohol, as well as taking opportunities to exercise, can also improve health. Why not introduce a fruit Friday, or have a recipe library for all employees to share and try? Making healthy options is easier to do when you feel positively encouraged and supported by a network.
Connect and check-in
Looking after your social wellbeing can have a positive impact on stress management – for you and your co-workers. Check-in with your peers, ask if they’re ok and have a chat and catch-up. Connecting on a social level can help you talk through anything that may be troubling you or ensure you feel supported.
Take time to work on your social health. Meeting and talking with friends or colleagues on a regular basis can be good for mental health; social connections provide emotional support, practical assistance, information and a sense of belonging. Feeling like you are part of a community, team or group of friends can help you in times of stress as you will have a support network around you. Having this reassurance is an important part of life, as it builds confidence, self-belief and strong relationships.
Ask for help, if you need it – offer support, if you feel it would help others.
Prioritise and organise
After reading the above steps, you might be thinking ‘great, more items to add to that ever-growing to-do-list’. But, by planning the things you can control, stressful situations can be mostly avoided – taking control over your schedule and what’s happening in the immediate world around you can help you gain a sense of grounding.
Managing your workload can be an overwhelming task, so its important to stay on top of your to-do list and follow an organised prioritisation system. This also means prioritising time away from your desk and planning breaks, just as much as arranging meetings. Clearly there are times when an unforeseen emergency arises and you have no choice but to be reactive, but generally, being proactive can help with anticipating potential problems, and coming up with solutions with foresight and consideration.
Giving emphasis on big or important tasks at the beginning of the day ensures you’re dedicating enough time, while having the headspace for any smaller or unplanned tasks later in the day. Thinking beyond the short-term and planning for the long-term can give a sense of perspective so you can focus on the things that matter most.
Rest and recharge
It’s important to feel rested and get enough sleep. While a physical sign of stress is not being able to sleep or having trouble with sleep, getting restful sleep while you can, can actually reduce stress levels and prevent those feelings of stress.
By having a clear routine to ensure decent, restful sleep, you are not only increasing your chances of feeling more refreshed, but you are reducing the instances where you may feel tired – which can result in being less able to manage stressful situations.
Ensure you and your team plan restful moments in their day, as well as physical activities; having headspace is crucial for stress management. Find ways to wind down at the end of your day; take a relaxing bath, reduce screen time and refuel with healthy foods. Keeping the balance right can have a great impact on your mental wellbeing.
Be kind, breathe and take time
Take time for self-care. Being kind to yourself is just as important as being kind to others. Expressing gratitude for others, and for things in your own life, is a great way to build and maintain team morale, satisfaction and relationships. Build positivity and make it part of your workplace culture to share at least one kind thing with your colleagues, peers or employees each day.
If things feel like they’re getting overwhelming, taking time to practice breathing exercises can help. Try a new breathing technique and share this with your team to try out when they’re feeling the pressure. It helps to zone-in on a single point of focus, blocking out the external chaos of the workplace or day, helping to re-centre and gain perspective.
Making wellbeing a part of your work culture and day-to-day practices means that positive habitual steps are implemented that lead to a healthier physical, emotional and mental lifestyle. Sometimes stress is unavoidable, but the ACT NOW campaign is about understanding how you and your team can take ownership and control of those feelings and situations to better manage stress before it becomes impactful. For more information about the Stress Management Society’s campaign, head to the official site, here: https://www.stress.org.uk/national-stress-awareness-month/