At work, a certain level of pressure is healthy and useful; it can push us to succeed and work efficiently to deliver the best possible results. But if there’s a lot of pressure, the workflow isn’t well managed and issues beyond our control start getting in the way of our tasks, enthusiasm could turn into stress.
In 2013/2014, work-related stress, depression and anxiety cost the UK 11.3 million working days. It just goes to show how important it is to address workplace stress quickly, otherwise you could be faced with just one option: taking a significant amount of time off work. In the case of the year 2013/2014, this total came to 23 day’s absence per case of stress.
With that in mind, here are some simple – and fun – suggestions that you could consider to relieve workplace stress.
Exercise releases endorphins (hormones known for lifting our mood), which could help people to deal with stress and low mood. Some employers provide gyms for their employees, but while this might not be possible for all, they could still try to encourage employees to take exercise. One idea could be a lunchtime workplace running club, which may help you and your team to boost your mood and bond.
It doesn’t have to stop at running, either – employers could think about negotiating reduced rates at local gyms or leisure centres, whether for a membership or specific sports class. Martial arts, for example, are great for physical and mental health, and could help people to channel their frustrations. Most major cities have at least one training school, and your employer may be surprised at just how enthusiastic your team is about the chance to learn some action film-style moves.
The natural world is incredibly soothing, but in an office environment, it can be difficult to remember that there is a world out there free from carpets, rows upon rows of desks and blaring telephones.
Employers could think about encouraging employees to take a walk around the nearest park or green space at lunchtime, if possible – an activity combining both exercise and perspective (see below). If there isn’t a park nearby, you could always bring potted plants into the office and suggest that the team waters and cares for them.
When people are really stressed, there may come a point where it’s more important for them to regain a healthy perspective than it is for them to complete the work that’s affecting their state of mind. Missing a deadline isn’t the end of the world, and neither is making a mistake; acting honestly and dealing openly with problems could prove much more effective than scrabbling to cover up mistakes you’ve made, or continuing to pretend that you can deliver the undeliverable.
To help yourself cope, you could think about taking a break, walking away from the work and getting some perspective on the situation.
Though a wacky idea, having an animal around the office could really work to bring people together, giving employees a pressure-free project to take part in together and offering some work-free enjoyment. In fact, a study by Virginia Commonwealth University showed that taking a dog into an office can have a positive impact on the levels of communication between employees.
While a dog may not be suitable for every workplace, smaller pets such as fish can still have a similar effect.
While these ideas could prove effective for many employees, there is no shame in finding that you are unable to shift your feelings of stress or anxiety. If this is the case, you could always speak to your doctor and employer.