How to combat work-related stress

The past couple of months have brought many changes into our lives and for most of us working from home has been one of them. Even heading out to work as part of our normal routine seems like a distance memory! However, one thing that hasn't changed has been the importance of dealing with work-related stress. Even though we may be working in an alternative environment, stress is still a common issue if not more so in these unprecedented times.

In this article, we explore the meaning behind stress and share our top tips on how to combat work-related stress from your own home.

What is stress?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines stress as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them at work”. And according to the latest UK workplace survey conducted by Perkbox, an astounding 79% of British adults have experienced work-related stress, which is 20% more than the figure recorded just two years ago. Some of the sources of work-related stress include heavy workloads, lack of control over projects, high expectation levels, job insecurity, bullying and changes within the company.

If stress becomes excessive and prolonged, mental and physical illness may develop. This is both detrimental to the employees’ personal health and also to the productivity of organisations as stress is often linked with high levels of staff turnover, employee absence and mistakes. It is time that we take action and address mental health issues within the workplace. We must eradicate the stigma of this pervasive culture of silence. 

Tips on how to cope with work-related stress

1.       Sleep well

One of the most important and effective ways by which you can reduce your stress levels is by having a good night’s sleep. It is a well-known fact that the better rested you are, the better prepared you’ll be to complete your job duties. A good night’s sleep can lead to increased productivity, creativity and ability to focus. 

Firstly, you should get into the habit of a good sleeping pattern, something that many of us are possibly struggling to achieve whilst being in lockdown. You should aim for 8 hours of sleep per night and go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. All screens such as televisions, mobiles, laptops etc should be turned off one hour before going to sleep. This is very important as the light emitted from these screens prevents your body’s production of melatonin and can therefore disturb your sleep. An alternative and more soothing activity which is believed to actually induce sleep is reading. Reading a book before going to bed can help you to completely zone out and relax. 

2.     Disconnect during your lunch break

Whilst this may be harder for most of us as our home is now our office, disconnecting for a well-earned break is so important. Drop your coworkers a message to let them know you are taking lunch and make the habit of logging off your computer and leaving your mobile behind for a while. 

To help you fully disconnect and recharge before conquering the afternoon workload, why not use your lunch break to get some fresh air by going out for a 10-minute stroll. Not only does exercise improve your physical health, but it can also enhance your mental health, allowing your brain to relax and refocus, eliminating the chances of continued stress throughout your day. This is because your body pumps extra blood when you exercise and this extra blood alongside the extra oxygen can help you to perform better mentally. 

3.       Plan ahead

In order to reduce your stress levels, you should plan your work ahead. Otherwise stated, writing everything down that you need to do and creating a daily to-do list can help you to remember your tasks. Creating a daily to-do list that only focuses on a few things means that you can focus on today’s tasks and not worry about tomorrow’s. Furthermore, rather than multi-task, you should also focus on one task at a time.

Be sure to take one day at a time. If it’s not done today, there is always another day tomorrow! It's important to remember that we all have our 'off days', where concentrating may not come as easy as usual or our home lifestyles cause distractions throughout the day. Don't be too hard on yourself for experiencing a bad day, you're certainly not alone.

4.       Create a relaxing workspace

We understand that creating a comfortable and productive workspace throughout these unprecedented times can be challenging, and you may be limited to where you can set up your work station. However, it's important to locate somewhere that you will feel relaxed to ensure that your workspace isn't causing you more stress.

Whilst your projects and deadlines may contribute to your increased stress levels, your physical environment can be just as great a culprit. Whether it’s a messy desk, an uncomfortable seat or noisy distractions, these factors are most likely adding to your stress levels and affecting your work performance. A small but effective step to reduce stress is organising a clean and simple workspace. Organising your desk can make it easier to focus and decrease the chances of you becoming distracted. 

5.       Keep active

Given that the brain has many nerve connections, when stress affects your brain, it also affects your body. Therefore, if you’re body feels better, so does your mind. Engaging in physical activity allows you to de-stress as your body releases endorphins, or rather, “feel-good” chemicals.

I know what you're thinking... how can I keep active during the current climate? Fear not, there are still plenty of options to stay active from home! A great starting point would be to follow exercise classes on social media or through an app on your phone. You'd be surprised at how many 'at home' workouts have been created from local gyms, personal trainers and fitness fanatics. Take thirty minutes after work each evening to complete a different workout, whether its learning yoga or completing a HIIT class.

6.       Listen to music

One of the most simple yet highly effective ways to maintain focus and eliminate stress is listening to calming music. Doing so can help you to de-stress, unwind and refocus. Likewise, listening to music is a fantastic way to block out the noise around you. 

On the other hand, listening to your favourite songs, whether more upbeat or slow, can serve as a source of motivation to begin tackling a heavy workload. This can help block out the negative thoughts you may have or stop you overthinking about your busy workload and allow you to concentrate on one task at a time.

7.       Speak out

Rather than bottling up how you’re feeling, speaking to either your supervisor, employer or someone outside your work such as family members, friends or a professional, allows other people to know how you’re feeling and help you target any worries you are experiencing.

Furthermore, under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers have a duty of care to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees. Therefore, if your mental health is struggling, it is vital that you talk to a team member who can offer you assistance and advice on how to cope better. You should definitely not feel embarrassed or ashamed to admit that you’re struggling with your mental health. The truth is that your co-workers probably do too but you just don’t know about it. 

8.       Learn to say NO

Overworking plays a critical role in our high-stress levels. In fact, the stress of taking on too much work can lead to decreased motivation and performance and increased employee absence levels. Whilst many of us are maybe taking on new responsibilities to support our team members throughout this time, it's important to put yourself first and speak up if you are struggling to meet the new demands.

Evidently, overworking can be very damaging to our health and we must learn how to say no to extra work.  This can result in even higher stress levels, feelings of inadequacy and decreased motivation. If you feel that you may be overly stressed by working overtime, just say no.

You're not alone

To conclude, by following these small steps provided by Stafffinders, you may notice your stress levels decrease. You must remember that it’s absolutely vital to manage your stress so that it doesn’t lead to mental and physical health illness. We all experience stress and cannot escape it in the workplace. However, we can neutralise it by following small steps like the above. 

Is it time for a fresh start? Check out our 'How to Achieve a Successful Career Change' article

What are your top tips to achieving a stress-free remote working environment?