It’s Stress Awareness Month this April, and we’re raising awareness of workplace stress while working remotely and how to overcome these stressors.
How can I tell if I’m stressed?
Each person responds to workplace stress in a different way, which can manifest in both mental and physical symptoms.
Mental symptoms include feelings of anxiety or depression, heightened irritability, apathy, loss of enjoyment or interest and difficulty concentrating.
Physical symptoms can include fatigue, sleep problems, palpitations, headaches and more.
The truth is each and every person finds different situations stressful. Learning to recognise what is healthy stress (that encourages you to thrive and do your best) and what is unhealthy stress (you are unable to cope and feel heightened anxiety) is particularly important. We all need stress in our lives to motivate and inspire us, but too much stress can have significant consequences.
Key workplace stressors
There are many different workplace stressors. Some people work full time in a busy, bustling office environment. Some employees work consistently from home. Whatever your working situation, it’s important to recognise key stressors in order to deal with them effectively.
- Long hours and high responsibility
Many workers, particularly those working from home, may feel a responsibility to work extra to showcase their dedication to the job. Feeling burnt out can exacerbate workplace stress.
- Poor communication or feelings of isolation
We live in an age of technology, so luckily all workers should be able to communicate with their colleagues using tools such as Slack or Google Hangouts. However, it’s easy to miss human interaction and feel lonely for remote working colleagues. Even in busy office environments there may be a lack of genuine, personal communication.
- Lack of knowledge
If an employee doesn’t feel equipped with the knowledge they need to do their job, it’s likely to lead to high stress levels. Employees should feel confident they can do their job well – or ask for help or additional training to assist them.
- Problems with management
As more people work from home, it’s harder for managers to oversee what tasks are being completed. This is leading to some people either feeling micromanaged, or left cut adrift from their leader. People need control over how they do their work, but they also want to feel part of the team and receive feedback and encouragement.
- Lack of focus
Whether you’re bored working from home, or find working in a loud office environment difficult to concentrate in, there are many reasons why an employee may feel a lack of motivation or focus. This can lead to high stress levels.
- Messy environments
This relates to both physical and digital environments. If you don’t have a clean and tidy working environment, you may struggle to feel settled while working. Similarly, if you don’t have an organised working system then your day is likely to be chaotic and difficult to manage.
Working from home challenges
Of course, working remotely has its own unique challenges. There is no longer a clear divide between work life and home life. Finding ways to switch off and go into ‘relax mode’ is much harder, though doable if you create a separate space in your home for an office and set clear boundaries and schedules. Most people find structure within their working day helpful, so don’t let standards slip if you’re working from home (in short, keep your morning alarm set as usual!)
Then you have day to day interruptions. The temptation to put your washing on. Personal phone calls or texts coming through. Make sure you have a strict working mindset and don’t allow yourself to become distracted. Feeling unfocussed, constantly interrupted or unable to complete your tasks within set working hours can lead to significant stress. If you work in a household with other people, make sure you set strict boundaries so you can work as effectively as possible.
The feeling of change and uncertainty in our current climate is causing significant stress amongst individuals. This is understandable. We can all recognise why this change is necessary, and its benefits. It’s now all about adapting to change effectively and finding ways to re-familiarise yourself with the new normal.
Coping with stress
Turning to drugs, alcohol or anti-social behaviour (such as shouting or being irritable with those around you) are unhelpful, unhealthy coping mechanisms that will cause more damage in the long-run.
Here are a few healthy coping mechanisms for managing workplace stress:
- Ask for support
Talk to your coworkers, family and friends. You might like to share your problems or anxieties with them, or simply use conversation and socialising as a way to turn off from other problems on your mind. If you are struggling with your workload, delegate some of the responsibility to your colleagues if you can. It’s always okay to ask for help.
- Prioritise your physical health
Many people find exercising is a great mood booster, so why not go for a walk or try some home exercise videos? Get your heart racing, focus on breathing techniques and you should feel some of the stress lift.
- Focus on activities you enjoy
If you find watching TV or listening to music relaxing, then take time to enjoy it. Focus on activities that take your mind off the worries at hand.
- Manage your time effectively
Stick to a schedule that includes work, life admin and time for fun activities and events. Give yourself extra time within the schedule to get ready for work or have a cup of tea when you get home so you don’t end up experiencing burnout. You should also plan in regular breaks and time for relaxation throughout the day.
- Know when to utilise technology
Arranging a conference call with someone who lives further afield, rather than making a long trip to see them can be time and cost effective. But you should also know when to switch off from tech. Turn off your email notifications at night and avoid taking business calls at the weekend.
- Think positively
Set realistic goals and try to stick to them. Noone’s perfect and you shouldn’t put undue pressure on yourself. Celebrate your achievements and think positively about your work, trying to put a good spin on things that aren’t quite perfect.
- Learn to let go
Not everything within our working environment is under our own control. Learn to care less about things that you can’t control, and focus more on the things you can. If you feel you aren’t given the control or responsibility you need, speak to your line manager.
- Plan your working day
Work with your manager to plan your days or weeks ahead. Learn to prioritise tasks effectively so you always get your ‘must’ jobs complete at the start of the day. You may feel overwhelmed by big tasks, so why not try to break them up into small segments? Working on a small 30-minute task that builds up into one bigger complete job is much more manageable.
- Get into a sleep routine
Create a good sleeping atmosphere that is quiet, dark and comfortable. Stick to the same consistent routine each night, such as turning off technology, reading, and using mindfulness techniques to help you drift off if you struggle to get to sleep.
- Eat and drink well
Minimise sugar and avoid too much caffeine and alcohol. Focus on eating mood-boosting foods such as fruit, oats and Omega-3 rich fish. Many people find planning and cooking meals for their family relaxing and enjoyable, so make the most out of mealtimes! Mindfully eat your food and savour each bite, allowing your stress to melt away as your focus on the flavours.
- Laugh lots
Humour is a great way to boost your mood and relieve stress. Try to find a lighthearted way to look at a stressful situation, or take five minutes to have a chat with a colleague you get on well with. Finding ways to lighten the situation and laugh will help you to feel much better.
How to help your employees combat workplace stress
It seems like a simple solution, but one of the best ways to support your workforce is to communicate and show empathy. Find out what makes your employees feel stressed, and work hard to help alleviate that if you can. Perhaps a member of staff feels a lack of control over their role, or is struggling with their workload. Individuals have different issues and stress factors, so listening to your team is the best way to find out what’s bothering them.
Sometimes businesses need a little extra support to help their people combat stress and improve their wellbeing. We’re working with our clients to offer exclusive rates on We Are Wellbeing’s services. The workplace wellbeing provider designs and develops a range of wellbeing services to support businesses and its employees. The team have created a series of exciting new webinars, available to access for free! To find out more, visit the We Are Wellbeing website.
Here at Romero, we’re proud to support our people both across our business’s offices and from the hundreds of temporary offices we now have across the country. We understand these are stressful times for our people, so we’re doing all we can to support their wellbeing. This includes running seminars, providing transparent business updates, organising virtual social events and much more. We’re helping our team so they are equipped and empowered to do what they do best – help you, our customer.