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Coping with work stress

Today we will be looking at work stress. To be honest I just want to write about the different kinds of stress people are going through in this COVID-19 times but I will just limit it to the work place because this is an HR column, even though the people at work are the same as the people when they are not at work, this will be slightly modified to take the -COVID19 situation into consideration.

Every employee has at some point, felt the pressure of work-related stress, jobs can have stressful elements, regardless of the passion or love for it. There can be stress to meet a deadline, to fulfill a challenging obligation or even because the employee has taken on too much. Stress in itself is not the problem, the problem is when work stress becomes chronic, it can be overwhelming, resulting in both physical and emotional health challenges.

Unfortunately, the work place is cited as a significant source of stress by a large number of people all over the world. I guess the workplace is where most people spend their lives, one can’t always avoid the tensions that occur on the job. Yet organizations can take steps to teach its staff on how work-related stress can be managed. In this COVID-19 times the stress can be multiplied.

Certain factors tend to go hand-in-hand with work-related stress. In many of my articles I have mentioned some of the common workplace stressors for example, low salaries, excessive workload, few advancement opportunities, non-engaging or non- challenging work, a lack of social support, a lack of control over job decisions and conflicting demands or unclear performance expectations.

Work-related stress doesn’t just disappear when employees go home for the day or when you shut down your laptop at home. Persistent stress can take a toll on health and well-being, a stressful work environment can create problems such as physical aches and pains, sleep disturbances, short temperedness and difficulty concentrating.

Chronic stress can result in anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system, it can also contribute to health conditions such as depression, obesity and heart disease. Compounding the problem, people who experience excessive stress often deal with it in unhealthy ways such as overeating unhealthy foods, smoking or abusing drugs and alcohol.

These are some suggestions for your employees:

 

Tracking stressors so as to see the pattern and be in a position to avoid them; This may just need a week or two of tracking to give the results needed. Thoughts, feelings and information about the environment, including the people and circumstances involved, the physical setting and personal reactions should be tracked.

Healthy responses should be developed; Nutrition must be healthy, not fast food or alcohol. exercise is a great stress buster. Hobbies and favorite activities should be actively cultivated.

Getting enough good-quality sleep is also important, building healthy sleep habits is the best way to cope, limiting caffeine intake late in the day and minimizing stimulating activities, such as computer and television use at night.

Furthermore, staff must set boundaries; In today’s digital and virtual working world, it is easy to feel pressure to be available 24 hours a day. In establishing some work-life boundaries for themselves, staff may make rules not to check work emails especially from home in the evening, or not answer the phone during dinner. Although people have different preferences when it comes to how much they blend their work and home life, creating some clear boundaries between these realms can reduce the potential for work-life conflict and the stress that goes with it.

Staff should be advised to take time to recharge; To avoid the negative effects of chronic stress and burnout, each person needs time to replenish and return to their pre-stress level of functioning. This recovery process requires “switching off” from work by having periods of time when they are neither engaging in work-related activities, nor thinking about work. That’s why it’s critical that staff disconnect from time to time, in a way that fits their needs and preferences.

Staff should not let their vacation days go to waste; When possible, they should take time off to relax and unwind, so they can come back to work feeling reinvigorated and ready to perform at their best. When staff are unable to take time off, they can get a quick boost by turning off their phones and focusing their attention on non-work activities for a while.

Staff should be again advised to learn how to relax; Techniques such as deep breathing exercises and meditating on scripture can help melt away stress. They can start by taking a few minutes each day to focus on a simple activity like breathing, walking or enjoying a meal. The skill of being able to focus purposefully on a single activity without distraction will get stronger with practice and they will find that they can apply it to many different aspects of their lives.

Staff should have the avenue to talk to their supervisors; employee health has been linked to productivity at work and this is an incentive to create a work environment that promotes employee well-being. They should start by having an open conversation with their supervisors. The purpose of this isn’t to lay out a list of complaints, but rather to come up with an effective plan for managing the stressors the employee has identified, so they can perform at their best on the job.

While some parts of the plan may be designed to help them improve their skills in certain areas, other elements might include identifying employer-sponsored wellness resources they can tap into, clarifying what’s expected of them, getting necessary resources or support from colleagues, enriching their job to include more challenging or meaningful tasks, or making changes to their physical workspace if possible to make it more comfortable and reduce strain.

Finally, especially if the employee is working from home, they can get some support. Accepting help from trusted friends and family members can improve their ability to manage stress, the company may besides all the above have some more resources including online information, available counseling and referral to mental health professionals, if needed.

If your employees continue to feel overwhelmed by work stress, you may want to refer them to a psychologist, who can help them better manage stress and change unhealthy behavior.

Finally, you must be sensitive and empathetic towards your staff such that you know when they are being stressed out. You do not want to lose any of them and stress unchecked can lead to resignations and suicides.

 

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