Written by KATIE OGILVY

We all know what it’s like to feel stressed at work. A degree of stress can be a normal reaction, and a feeling of being under pressure can sometimes be beneficial, focusing the mind and helping us push through a to-do list before returning to a more comfortable pace.

However when there’s too much to do, or too many conflicting demands placed upon us, that feeling can sometimes become overwhelming and we can’t see beyond it.

National Stress Awareness Day (November 6th) is a great opportunity to think about your team’s wellbeing, and your own, and what measures you can take to help maintain a good balance.

At Reality HR, we regularly advise employers and team leaders on ways to prevent and tackle workplace stress. Here are some tips from the team:-

Recognise the signs

Recognising signs of stress is the first step in dealing with it – everyone reacts differently, and it can be felt both physically and emotionally. The important thing to watch out for is a change in behaviour. If for example you, or a team member, feel your head is “foggy”, you can’t switch off or you are constantly worrying, that’s probably stress. There are other signs which include loss of appetite and panic attacks. Getting to know the warning signs, as an employer or line manager, will enable you to recognise them and react appropriately.

There are a few tools you can use to help make sure you pick up signs of stress and problems early on:

  • Invest in relevant training for your managers and supervisors to spot stress
  • Ensure there is a system for staff to talk about concerns and problems
  • Regularly review your sickness absence, staff turnover rates and other indicators
  • Ensure there are good communication processes in place
  • Keep all policies and procedures for staff welfare up-to-date
  • Encourage your managers and supervisors to raise issues openly

Organise and prioritise

It might seem simple but making a to-do list can make tasks seem more manageable. Whether it’s for you or to help a team member, arrange tasks in order of importance and try to focus on them one at a time.  Seeing everything together in order will help you to prioritise and may enable you to move things to the following day, or until the pressure has eased.  Being able to tick things off is a great feeling and can help you feel in control.

Communicate

Despite stress being a common experience, some people still don’t feel comfortable telling their employer that they feel under pressure. Team members should feel the door is open and that their issues will be taken seriously. Sometimes just talking about the problem can be a weight off. For employers, developing a Wellness Action Plan for each member of staff can help identify any ongoing issues and stress triggers.

Have one-to-one chats with your employees to understand factors that make their jobs stressful – you may be able to easily address them. Work with employees on decisions that affect their role, such as workplace rules, targets and goals – getting their input will help prevent unnecessary misunderstandings and potentially stress inducing conflict.

Outside the office, chatting with friends about things you’re finding difficult will help put things into perspective – they may be able to help you, and you could do the same for them!

Balance your time

Don’t let your life be your work – you may already know what helps you feel relaxed when you’re stressed – perhaps taking yourself away from others, going for a walk, or listening to music.   Use the holiday you’re entitled to and, if possible, take a few days off if things get too much.  Having some time to switch off will leave you feeling refreshed and increase your productivity when you get back to work.

Make sure you set aside time to do things that you enjoy – it’s a great way to get away from everyday pressures and clear your head.  Even at work, use the breaks that are available – take lunch away from your desk, for instance, or pop out for a walk around the block.

Break bad habits

We can often make job stress worse with negative thoughts and behaviour – try not to focus on the downside of the situation or you’ll lack the energy and motivation needed to do your job well. It’s easier said than done but think positively about your work and acknowledge your achievements. When the time is right, sharing jokes and laughing with colleagues will instantly boost the mood and ease stress.

Ultimately, an employer has the responsibility to provide support for employee health and wellbeing. We can offer guidance with the implementation of policies and training, such as Wellness Action Plans, to combat workplace stress. Please get in touch with the team on 01256 328428 or at info@realityhr.co.uk