Managing stress at work

Managing stress at work
Managing stress at work

posted 06 Dec 22

Since COVID-19, work-related stress, depression, and anxiety have rocketed to above pre-pandemic levels, with HSE finding that 1,360 in every 100,000 workers are suffering from work-related stress in some form.

With stress and anxiety contributing to 50% of all work-related ill health and over 451,000 cases of work stress, these are now the leading causes of absence in the UK.

As well as challenges being exacerbated by the pandemic, research has found that people’s resilience has dropped. This has led to harmful coping mechanisms such as alcohol and substance abuse, and overeating, all of which put more of a strain on mental and physical health.

In this article, we’ve put together some of the most effective ways to manage workplace stress, using advice from HR experts and advice from leading organisations such as the NHS.

The Importance of Communication

It’s more important than ever for employers and HR functions to monitor employee stress levels and ensure they have an effective framework in place to detect early signs of distress. This proactive approach can help prevent and reduce challenges before they escalate.

At Search, we have several strategies to ensure employees feel comfortable speaking up about how they’re feeling. 

We’re committed to talking openly and honestly at Search, encouraging managers to have an open door policy and regular communication lines with fellow team members. Even if people seem fine, you may find that a brief, informal chat could unearth issues that weren’t previously obvious, which can then be used as a catalyst for change. It’s key that employers provide employees with as many opportunities as possible to share thoughts or concerns and doing so will go a long way in developing trusted relationships and respect.

Jillian Fleming, HR Manager at Search

Top Tips for Work Stress Management

  • Review your work-life balance

The pandemic changed the way people work, so many employees are still working remotely. This can make it difficult to set boundaries for when work stops and life starts, especially in the evenings.

So, set clear boundaries for yourself and give yourself time to unwind so you don’t become overwhelmed.  

  • Add structure

Adding some structure to your diary, where you have commitments outside of work to look forward to, can prevent you from working long hours and help you enjoy a fulfilling work and social life.

Both of these can positively contribute to your mental health journey and reduce stress at work and home.

  • Practice meditation or yoga

Mindfulness and relaxation techniques can help to activate a state of restfulness and counterbalance the body’s fight-or-flight hormones. Yoga and meditation are tried and tested methods for reducing stress but don’t be deterred if they don’t work for you.

  • Manage your time and plan ahead

When you manage your time effectively and plan your workload, you’re less likely to feel stressed. Time management helps you relieve stress and give you more control over your working life.

  • Prioritise a healthy lifestyle

Poor health habits like excessive drinking, substance abuse, and overeating can not only increase stress but reduce your ability to deal with stressful situations. It’s therefore essential to take time out to focus on your personal well-being and understand what makes you happy.

A healthy lifestyle might include a healthy eating plan, taking part in exercises that you enjoy, or simply going for a walk once a day.

  • Build in regular exercise

Exercise helps to balance the nervous system and increases blood circulation which helps to flush out stress hormones. Even an average-paced, 20-minute daily walk can make a difference to your stress levels and is something most people can manage.

Walking during the day will also help break up your workday and put you in a better headspace.

  • Monitor your water intake

Your adrenal glands produce extra cortisol, the stress hormone, when you’re stressed, which often results in reduced electrolytes in the body. Drinking water not only helps your brain function but it replenishes electrolytes and reduces some of the physiological impacts of stress.

  • Ensure you have enough sleep

Sleep is a powerful stress reducer that can calm and restore the body, support memory function, and improve concentration. When you’re well-rested you’re also able to problem solve more effectively.

  • Take a holiday

Changing your environment can reset your stress tolerance by increasing your mental and emotional outlook. Take a break from your laptop and phone and reconnect with nature, for example, which isn’t hard to achieve if you live in England.

  • Do something you enjoy regularly

Whatever it is, whether it’s reading, listening to music, getting creative, or something else, engage in activities that create happiness in your life.

As well as lowering your heart rate and releasing important endorphins, regularly doing things you enjoy has been shown to reduce stress by almost half.

Connect with people

Spending time with people who make you happy or who are important to you is crucial for your mental well-being. It’s well known that talking face to face with people also helps to reduce loneliness and releases those ‘feel good hormones’ you need to find balance in your life.

  • Find the source of your stress

Everybody deals with stress differently, so try multiple coping techniques to see which ones help you find calm and motivation when you feel pressure mounting in your job role.

Work Smarter, not Harder 

Instead of working more hours, understand your deadlines and communicate with your team so you don’t get bogged down by unnecessarily, difficult tasks.

It’s also a great idea to put easy, ‘mindless’ tasks on your to-do list that you know will get done because completing any tasks, easy or hard, can make you feel positive and lower stress levels.

Ask for Help

Your line managers, HR team, health and safety executive, and work friends are all there to help you, so if stress is getting in the way of your work and affecting your emotional health, talk to someone.

A brief, informal chat can help you realise that you’re not alone and that there are people who want to support you and make you feel better.

Remember, stress isn’t always bad!

Stress can be energising and exciting and it can make you feel motivated to complete work to a high standard. It’s a case of understanding and recognising the difference between good and bad stress and where that boundary lies.

If you’re looking for a new role, whether it’s remote, hybrid, temporary or permanent, we can help. View our available vacancies or speak to a specialist.