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6 Mins
Stress

Solving the causes of stress at work

September 20, 2022
By
ieso

Many of us have experienced changes in where and how we do our work over the last couple of years. It’s no wonder that an estimated one in 40 employees was affected by work-related stress, anxiety or depression in 2020 to 2021, according to Bupa UK.

As well as getting used to new working environments and rules, some people have had to take on new roles and responsibilities – and all while dealing with uncertainty on a daily basis. Challenges like these can lead to stress, which the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) describes as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures and demands placed on them”.

Feeling a little stressed now and again is normal, but if the feelings are debilitating or carry on for a long period of time they can lead to physical illness as well as mental health issues. If you’re experiencing stress at work, here are some steps you can take to address the causes, and reduce the impact they have on you.

Identify the source of the stress

Is it something that’s happening at work or in your personal life, or a combination of both? The CIPD carried out a Health and Wellbeing at Work Survey earlier this year, which found that the leading causes of employee stress were:

  • the volume of work
  • management style
  • relationship or family issues
  • personal illness or health issues
  • COVID-related anxiety
  • new demands or challenges or poor work-life balance due to working at home.

Be aware of the signs and symptoms

If you feel stressed at work, your productivity and efficiency will be affected, which can cause your stress to worsen. There are a number of ways stress can affect your health and wellbeing. Common symptoms include mood swings, low energy, headaches, upset stomach, rapid heartbeat and chest pain, and insomnia.

Do what you can to look after mental health

While it’s impossible to eliminate stress completely, being better equipped to deal with stressful situations can help people to cope. The Help Guide has some recommendations for improving stress levels and overall wellbeing, while some people find that thinking about the ‘Stress Bucket’ is a helpful management strategy. ieso has also published a series of blogs on stress, including the signs of chronic stress.

Think about any changes you can make

You might be able to improve the situation by doing something really simple. For example, if your workload has increased and you’ve got into the habit of not taking a break, make time to get away from your desk to clear your mind, rest your eyes, and eat a proper lunch.

Raise it with your manager

Organisations have a legal responsibility to look after employees’ health and wellbeing. Talk to your manager or to HR if you can see a larger issue that needs solving – for instance, if a new process has been introduced and it isn’t working well.

Take control of your inbox

Emails and messaging and collaboration apps can be a huge contributing factor to work-related stress. It’s easy to feel that we have to respond as soon as we hear that ‘ping’, but this encourages us to jump from one task to another, scattering our focus and making us less productive.

As far as possible try to stay on track with the task in hand, concentrating on it from start to finish. If you can, turn off message notifications, instead setting aside defined chunks of time for checking and responding to messages.

Put boundaries in place

The borders between work, leisure and rest time may have blurred, but it’s important to keep these areas of our lives as separate as we can. Feeling constantly on alert and in demand isn’t good for our minds or our physical health.

Being available to respond ‘out of hours’ is sometimes expected as part of the company culture. If this is negatively affecting you, talk to your manager and make it clear that it’s causing stress. If you’re working at home, close the door of the office at the end of the day, or shut your laptop and put it away.

Seek support

Some organisations offer wellbeing support, counselling services or employee assistance programmes (EAPs). Your manager or HR can point you towards these.

You can also look online for local support services, or talk to your GP about what’s available through the NHS. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can provide highly effective strategies for managing stress, and you can self-refer and undertake treatment online with ieso – find out more here.

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