Jayne Carrington, Managing Director of Right Management Workplace Wellness, explains how individuals can effectively deal with workplace stress
The financial sector has always been a demanding place to work, but with the economic crisis creating seismic shifts in the industry, the stressful nature of the job has worsened all the more. This problem is being exacerbated by the fact that many individuals are facing extra pressure outside of the workplace, including financial worries and having the responsibility to care for their families – both children and older relatives. In fact across the individuals who called our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) Helpline last year, , 85% of presenting issues were due to factors outside of the workplace, but had a negative impacted on work . Unresolved stress from a multitude of sources can harm emotional and physical health, all of which will have an impact on an individual’s ability to do their job. It’s vital that both organisations, and individuals, recognise the true scale of this problem and take steps to better prevent and manage stress in the workplace.
When not dealt with properly, stress can lead to poor sleeping habits, ongoing fatigue, low energy levels, low nutrition intake and low levels of physical activity. And when such physical wellbeing is below par, productivity is negatively impacted. It’s essential that employers consider the real value of employee wellbeing; after all, a healthy, productive workforce means a healthy business. What’s more, The Wellness Imperative, a report from the World Economic Forum and Right Management, found that employees across the globe are eight times more likely to be engaged when wellness is a priority in the workplace, so it’s important to consider all possible routes to make this possible.
Employees flourish in a workplace environment where stresses can be voiced and resolved – because often they don’t know who to turn to and don’t want to admit that they are facing either work-based or personal challenges. Employers who want to increase productivity, innovation and morale amongst their workforce should engage in intervention programmes to ensure that their employees get the support and guidance they need at the right time. However, individuals also have a responsibility to look at how they can manage their stress and be more resilient in challenging times. This means that individuals need to look at the situation or circumstances that create this strain and understand how they can implement attitudinal and behavioural changes that will enable them to successfully deal with workplace pressures.
Here are six simple steps that individuals can take to manage their stress levels effectively:
Think objectively about your reaction to stress – Firstly, it’s important to recognise the difference between stress anddistress; consider what is simply a ‘challenging’ time and when this changes to having a significant impact on your emotional and physical wellbeing. Then think about how you handle these situations. When under pressure, individuals’ typical reactions can change considerably. It’s helpful to identify the sorts of situations where your stress levels start to get out of control so you can understand how and why you typically respond and how you might amend your response to reduce stress and anxiety.
Separate challenges into what you can and can’t control – Unfortunately, we can’t win all our battles but we can put our energy towards those which are within our control. Focussing your energy where it is going to be most effective is the best thing you can do to avoid becoming overwhelmed by factors that you have no power over.
Set manageable goals and stick to them – The trick is not to take on too much work at a time. Taking on tasks that you don’t have the ability to complete can be daunting and can quickly become an added pressure that you simply don’t need whilst at work. Only take on tasks that you know you will be able to achieve and push back on work that is only going to create more stress.
Learn how to think positive –The past few years has been turbulent for the financial services sector and at times of increased pressure and instability, it’s no wonder employees have lost enthusiasm and begun to think more negatively. However, it’s important to focus your energy on high points and think positively in order to approach challenges with a winning mindset. Using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy techniques can help to manage your problems in a more positive way.
Learn how to communicate under pressure – Often, in high-pressure situations, stress builds and communication between employees becomes shorter and more direct – especially over email. It’s important to note that managers are carriers of stress – if you are a leader within an organisation be aware of how you might be coming across to your team members as you may be bringing down morale. Having dignity in the workplace is really important. Think about ways you can keep negative thoughts in check or at least ‘vented’ using the appropriate channels.
Learn how to manage your time – According to research from the Bank Workers Charity, 65% of employees in the finance sector said that they work up to 30 hours longer than they are contracted to do so. Yet working longer hours can actually be counter-productive. Simple steps like completing key tasks that you may not enjoy first thing in the morning, can help you to manage your to-do list effectively.
Whilst we are slowly coming out of the recession, many organisations in the financial sector are having to do more with less, putting pressure on employees to drive productivity and performance. These challenging working conditions will continue for some time so employees should look at ways in which they can become more resilient help themselves through these demanding times and know when to say they are struggling. Organisations also need to be aware of the stress that individuals face both in and out of the workplace and ensure that they implement wellbeing support programmes and inform their employees of the steps that can be taken to mitigate the effects of stress. With both parties playing their part, the general health of the workforce will improve as well as the overall health of the business.