It seems that finally the message on work-related stress is hitting home and companies are focusing on their most valuable asset, their staff.
There has undoubtedly been a change in attitude over the last few years and well-being is the new black. Maybe it’s wanting to promote a great company image or maybe it is simply down to cold hard economics – stress costs!
It may not have a column on a budget sheet but its impact on the bottom line is substantial. Stress is one of the biggest challenges facing managers on a daily basis.
Spot the stress in your attrition figures
It is the biggest causes of sickness absence, under performance, low morale, increased litigation and ultimately high attrition levels. Exit research data tells us that there is a discrepancy between perceived reasons and the actual reasons people leave an organisation. When questioned, the majority of staff stated their main reasons for leaving as stress, while it rarely makes the top five in employers’ surveys. Nothing starts a mass exodus like high stress levels.
Start recognising stress
The first thing a manager needs to do to reduce stress in the workplace is to recognise it. This includes knowing when and how it affects them because one thing is guaranteed … if you’re stressed it will have a knock-on effect.
Spot the symptoms
Stress manifests itself in a variety of ways but symptoms may include changes in behaviour… smoking or drinking more, being unable to sleep, a change in eating habits. Or you may become indecisive, lose concentration, become irritable angry or anxious, or start feeling tired and listless. Stress can also be the underlying cause of aching muscles, headaches, stomach problems, high blood pressure and palpitations.
Lead by example
It is important to ensure that on a company wide level all possible actions are being taken to reduce work-related stress with improved work practices and management techniques. It is also important to take smaller, more immediate actions on a daily basis: encourage your staff to make small lifestyle changes and lead by example…
De-clutter your desk
Stress can make us feel overwhelmed by the simplest of tasks so be methodical and regain control. Do one thing at a time, write down your tasks, daily, weekly or monthly and cross them off when they are completed. Also have a good clear-out and de-clutter your desk.
Recharge your batteries
Take time to relax, focus and recharge your batteries to tackle the day with renewed vigour.
Get a massage
It is well documented that a massage even for just 10 minutes is relaxing and de-stressing, but it will also manually disperse the build up of the fight or flight chemical stress response, including reducing any tight muscles and headaches (ever wondered where the phrase ‘up tight’ comes from?). A short massage will give an energising boost to your day, leaving you refreshed and invigorated. There are many self-massage books available with techniques which you can use to treat yourself or you can seek the service of a professional therapist.
Take a break
When you get a break, use it! Leave your workstation, change your environment. Don’t be tempted to eat your lunch at your desk, go do something different, get some exercise, lose yourself in a book (why not start a ‘take one leave one’ bookshelf?) or take in an mp3 player and listen to your favourite uplifting music.
Go for a walk
Exercise is a great way to reduce stress. During your lunch break leave the building, whatever the weather, and walk, briskly and purposefully. (It was Billy Connolly who said “there is no such thing as bad weather just inappropriate clothing!”) Put together a few different routes that are achievable within your break times, map them out and invite your colleges to join in. The combination of exercise, fresh air and a change of scene will have a marked effect on your stress levels.
Cut down on the coffee
Caffeine, including coffee, tea and caffeine-charged energy drinks can exacerbate stress levels. Replace them with juice or water or caffeine-free alternatives.
Contact centres have very dry atmospheres due to air conditioning, etc. so you need to drink water frequently throughout the day. All of our organs, including our brain, depend on water to function effectively. It not only hydrates the body but it helps to alleviate tiredness and headaches and reduce any voice problems.
Drinking and smoking
Monitor your drinking and smoking. When we get stressed it is all too easy to really on these crutches, but they will mask the extent of the problem and frequently make it worse.
Take advantage of any help available. Most companies offer a range of well-being programmes and initiatives that you can participate in. Speak to your HR or well-being representative.
While it is impossible to eradicate stress completely, as an employer it is your legal and moral duty to be pro-active and ensure the negative impact of work-related stress is kept to a minimum.
Acknowledging stress and having positive attitudes towards it in the workplace ensures an open and positive response to it. It gives people ‘permission’ to be stressed. All too frequently employees are too afraid to mention the ‘S’ word in case it is treated as a sign of weakness. By taking the initiative, introducing a few simple ideas and leading by example you can start the attitude adjustment from the ground up. The advice may be obvious, and you may well have heard it all before but it can’t be stressed enough!
Donna Phillips MICHT MGPBT is Director/Senior therapist at Therapy Solutions Providers of stress reducing, energising and performance improving Call Centre Massage. (www.therapysolutions.co.uk)