Stressed at work? Here’s what you can do

As with many high-pressured jobs, stress can sometimes feel like a normal part of the job. However, the number of sick days due to work-related illness have increased. As a result, employers have begun to reassess the toll work based stress is putting on employees, and is taking a closer look at wellbeing in the workplace to combat growing concerns about professional mental health. The Health and Safety executive revealed in its 2018 GB Health and safety statistics, that across all professions 1.4 million people have suffered from work-related illness. And for those in the legal profession, this should come as little surprise: with tight deadlines, demanding clients, long hours and billing pressures, legal professionals report high levels of stress. In our latest Bellwether Report Stress in the Legal Profession, we identified that more than 60% of lawyers experience high levels of stress on a day to day basis. In this article, we look at the outcomes of work-related stress and how both you the individual and employers can help combat this growing issue.

Workplace stress can…

Office-related stress can be the factor for several things, for example it can:

  • reduce employee productivity equalling a lower quality and quantity of work
  • cause employee health issues, such as high blood pressure, fatigue, headaches and stomach aches
  • be the cause of increased absenteeism resulting in a loss of company profits
  • result in a higher staff turnover

What can I do to manage work-related stress?

There are many things you can do to try and combat stress, the Health and Safety Executive has provided a Work related stress tool kit which provides easy steps to follow. We have also outlined our top tips:

  1. Identify your stress triggers—it is a good idea to breakdown your everyday role and see what challenges are occurring and causing your stress. Sit down with your manager and try to work out an action plan to help you manage these triggers more successfully
  2. Lower your caffeine intake—Although you may feel like coffee is your saving grace when you’re needing a boost, but this can make you feel worse while stressed. Highly caffeinated coffee can increase anxiety, making pressurised situations feel worse. Green tea or a fruit smoothie can give you a similar boost, without the added anxious feelings.
  3. Stay hydrated—hydration is key to good mental health. Being dehydrated has been found to make the brain more lethargic, meaning it’s harder to focus on complex tasks and multitask. Setting yourself a reminder to drink every hour can not only help you stay hydrated but also be a trigger to get you up and out of your seat while filling up your glass.
  4. Social media blackouts—social media has become a necessity, whether we’ve connecting on LinkedIn, sharing our work or simply scrolling through Instagram, it’s easy to become trapped in consuming bottomless scrolling patterns. However, these platforms can be addictive and may induce negative thoughts while comparing ourselves to others. Reducing time on social media or introducing a ‘blackout’ period between certain hours can help improve your mental health and stop the link between attaining ‘likes’ for self-worth.
  5. Create clear boundaries for a work/life balance—Ensure that you schedule time with your manager to create clear boundaries at work. As outlined by Mind Charity: ‘We know you’ll have times when you need to work overtime to meet deadlines but try to make this the exception not the norm. Long hours mean you may be working harder, but not better—they’ll quickly take their toll on your concentration, productiveness and health.’

What can an employer do to reduce work-related stress?

As an employer, it may be hard to encourage individuals to follow the above. However, there are some methods you can introduce to lower the rising issue of workplace stress. For example:

  1. Introduce group activities—whether it’s a social night out, book club or team exercise, socialising can be a great tool in improving mental health and getting your staff to be re-energised for an afternoon of productive work. As well as this, introducing the exercise element can increase endorphins and help with anxiety and depression.
  2. Provide support—Going through stress at work can be a very lonely experience, with individuals not wanting to burden their colleagues or bring down the atmosphere. However, having a safe space for employees to reach out can be a key element to helping them work through difficult phases, whether they are personal, or work-related—such as unrealistic goals, organisation problems or deadlines.
  3. Flexible working—as technology has advanced significantly it means there are now more opportunities to work from home and work remotely, which can relieve stresses such as balancing family life or dealing with a difficult commute.

For more download our latest Bellwether report here.

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