Times are ever changing.
And with change comes uncertainty, pressure and tension. As the world moves even faster around us, how do you find your calm and stability and manage your stress so that work stays a pleasure, not a pain?
The Health & Safety Executive has identified six main areas that can lead to work-related stress if they are not managed properly. These are: demands, control, support, relationships, role and change.
So what got me thinking about this?
World Mental Health Day is this Wednesday and it’s great that so many companies are putting on well-being days and programmes to raise awareness of mental health in the workplace.
However, good mental health is for life, not just for Wednesday.
So If you don’t believe you have a solid well-being programme that supports your mental health in any of these areas or like me, you feel you need more than one day of activities, I’d like to explore with you some techniques and solutions that can empower you to build your mental strength so that you are ready for any challenge that arises in the workplace.
Firstly, let’s take a quick look at what we see stress as.
HSE defines stress as ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them’.
I would add that stress is an increased expectation on a person, either real or perceived. We live in an increasingly demanding world with so much connection that we feel pressured to live a certain way – even through the squares of social media. There is no real pressure there but it can be the greatest cause of stress to some when we feel we don’t live up to a perceived ideal.
So how can we approach these six areas with a more empowered, calm and positive outlook?
Demands – This may be struggling to cope with the demands of the job or difficult demands from clients.
Solution: Communication is key here with your manager or the client and setting clear expectations of what is and isn’t possible.
- Can you establish clear deliverables with the client at the start of the project, including turn around times on emails or pieces of work?
This will help ease the pressure and expectation on both sides.
Magical Mindful moment:
Demands will always be there – some immediate and some on the horizon. We are responsible for managing the demands we place on ourselves and it is key here to be kind to ourselves and recognise what we are capable of. Some ways to do this are:
Know your optimum working time- do you tackle financials better in the morning? Are you more creative at the end of the day? Plan your work accordingly (and let your manager/ peers know!) so that you work to the best of your own ability.
Factor in buffer time so that you can respond to urgent demands if needed- a tip is to plan 75% of your schedule and leave 25% of the day for unexpected work.
Control – Some employees feel that they are unable to control the way they do their work.
It may not be possible to dictate all of your working day although a good manager will empower you to do your best work in your own way.
It is totally feasible to negotiate working windows - blocks of time where you can work in the best way for you (switching off email, changing the space in which you work, putting in headphones to concentrate…) and if you can make a good case of the benefits and results of this, it is highly likely you will be given free reign.
This is also a really powerful way for employees to control how they work and give their best selves to their employers. When you have a happy and balanced home life, you bring a more positive, rested self to work!
If your company doesn’t have a flexible working policy, I would suggest speaking to HR and making a strong case for why you feel it would be of benefit to the business and how you can deliver and maintain it. Offer to do a trial of one month with a review at the end and then do whatever it takes to make it successful! This can look like working from home one day a week, working offline for parts of the day or working altered hours.
Magical Mindful moment:
Set your boundaries - Know what you want
Write down what your ideal is and then what your minimum is and go from there - aim for somewhere in the middle!
Support - Not receiving enough information and support can cause stress as you feel lost and alone.
This is often due to managers struggling with their own pressures and workload so here I’d like to offer a few solutions:
Solution: Offer to help your manager
I know – sounds crazy doesn’t it if you are already struggling with a lack of support. Hear me out. By offering to help them, they will get clearer on what they need to do and what they can give you and so this can help shape your own role. If this backfires, then it’s also a good way to introduce the conversation “ You’re giving me x to do but I’m not clear what else I should be focusing on, does this take priority over …?”
Solution: Find a buddy
You may not be getting the support you need from your direct manager. Can you turn to someone else in the company and find a work buddy or mentor who can support you and listen to any concerns? They may not be able to help you directly in your role but often, our work stresses come from navigating difficult conversations and situations and often all we need is a friendly ear.
Relationships - We often think we left the playground behind at school, but the workplace can be rife with bullying and difficult relationships. So how do we navigate them as an adult?
Solution: Change your perspective.
They are just being who they are.
See the situation from their point of view.
This doesn’t excuse bullying behaviour.
It can however help you understand where the other person is coming from and give you an empathetic attitude when you approach the situation, rather than fighting back.
Perhaps your boss is tough on you – is this because (s)he is dealing with his/her own stress? Is (s)he a typically aggressive person who isn’t actually angry at you but taking his/her frustration out on you?
When you can understand the other person better, you can change your tack. Can you approach them and explain how it makes you feel? Can you suggest an off-site meeting where you can talk calmly about any issues to diffuse the situation?
If none of this seems possible, it helps to speak to HR and again – find a buddy at work who you can talk to and see if they have a similar experience with that person.
Role - Very often the role we are hired to do turns out to be very different to the one we end up doing!
How did that happen?? Or perhaps you don’t fully understand your role and responsibilities and need clearer guidance.
Solution: This can also apply to having a lack of information or support. If you feel you are unclear on your role or lacking information, go back to your job description.
- What is expected of you?
- What are your deliverables?
- What is your title and how does it compare to other equivalent titles?
- If you are a manager, what do other managers in the business “manage”? - If you don’t have this, then ask your manager for a one-to one. Don’t wait for your appraisal.
Change – When change happens in a business we can be left feeling confused, disrupted and uncertain.
In this area there is a lot of responsibility on a business to communicate changes and the impact on individuals.
There are things you can do to manage change though…
Solution: Ask questions.
Don’t be afraid to ask your manager what changes mean and how they will affect the team.
Mindful magic moment: Here there is a lot to be said for building your resilience so that when change comes, you can be prepared for it and deal with it in an open, calm, curious way.
One way of doing this is to use the ABC approach.
Action – what is the action taking place? Is the business undergoing financial struggle? Are they making people redundant? Or is the business growing very fast?
Belief - I believe I will lose my job or I believe the company will start laying people off or I believe my role will change because they will ask me to do more and I won’t like my job anymore
I will be unhappy and job-less and poor and I will lose my home.
Or I will be overworked and stressed and not enjoy my job.
Now go back to B – belief and examine if these beliefs are true. Just because the company is going though a difficult financial period does not mean it will affect jobs. The company may be stable enough to ride out any dips And if there are redundancies, your role is not necessarily at risk. If the company is growing this may open up new opportunities for you and could be a great thing!
Can you take positive action to reassure yourself? Starting with communication with your manager. Perhaps tidying up your CV so you are ready for any role changes. Or skilling up in a new area so that when and if change comes, you are even more invaluable to the business and can offer other skills to your core abilities.
Taking care of you
The biggest action you can talk through any stressful situation is to take care of your team as a manager, and take care of YOU. If you have strong mindful habits in place to combat stress, then you will be able to handle any challenge that comes your way.
To learn more about this contact me to find out about workshops I run on stress management, resilience and more.
We start with self awareness and understanding who we are and then develop mindful habits that we can implement in our every day - to support our mental health in good times and bad.
Also for a short time only I'm running a workshop dedicated to helping companies co-create their personal well-being plan. You'll learn all about the essential elements of a well-being programme and how to make it relevant and sustainable to your business - and leave with a personal action plan. Check out the details here!