Stress and our new working environment
April 30, 2021 | by Mandy Kinnell & Gareth Nicholson
Over the past twelve months we have all experienced stress at varying levels as we have travelled through the Covid pandemic. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines work-related stress as ‘The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them at work.’
The Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) states that over 11 million working days are lost each year due to stress at work and the pandemic has both added to workplace stress and created new challenges that most people have never previously experienced.
As many of us now return to our workplaces after prolonged periods of working from home, we may experience concerns about how we will manage this new environment, the changing demands and rebuilding of relationships. Bernard Looney, CEO of BP recently told The Guardian that, “Work patterns are changing… we expect to move towards a more hybrid work style which will be a mixture of home and office”. The past year has been a mixed bag of experiences for many people and it is fair to say, some of us have relished the home working experience, whilst others have found it hugely challenging; juggling work with caring responsibilities, home-schooling and the blurring of the work and home life all adding to the pressures of living through a pandemic.
As we enter a new world of ‘hybrid working’, we may face new challenges and pressures. Global employee experience think tank, Leesman, has warned of ‘sentiment drift’ as people struggle with the ever-changing work landscape, new rules and they predict that fatigue and stress will become problematic.
So, how can we manage our stress and look after our wellbeing over the coming months as society begins to re-open and our work lives continue to shift? Here are some ideas you might consider to support your wellbeing.
- Be alert to the signs that you, or someone around you, is suffering from stress. You might notice changes in work performance, or emotional signs such as irritability or crying, or it might be a change in behaviour such as withdrawal or aggression, or changes in routine. You might also notice physical signs such as tiredness, headaches or muscle tension. Be prepared to talk about it.
- Look at your triggers; is there a situation, a relationship or task that heightens your stress? Consider how you can best manage those situations in a positive way.
- Focus your attention on the things you can control or deal with, and as little time and energy as possible on the things beyond your control.
- Speak to your manager about how you’re feeling and seek some support from your organisation. Many workplaces are supportive and will look at flexibility and may provide access to help through private healthcare, employee assistance programmes and counselling support.
- Consider your habits and routines and identify any changes you can make to support your wellbeing and reduce your stress – exercise, socialising and taking time for a hobby or enjoyable activity can all help.
- Make some space in your day for relaxation. Fishing, golf, art, music, meditation, yoga, mindfulness and guided visualisation are all methods that you might try to unwind, de-stress and look after your emotional wellbeing.
- Plan your day, set some structure, and keep to a routine. You might need to adapt your previous routine at work as things change, so try to remain flexible and open to trying new ways of working.
- Make time to keep in touch with colleagues, don’t miss out on the water cooler chat. It is important to be social, whether you are meeting in person, or virtually.
- Don’t forget to take a break. It is easy to lose track of time when working from home, without interruptions, but planning breaks will give time for you to re-energise, re-focus and boost your energy levels.
- Make the most of hybrid working. Sometimes in an office environment it is easy to be distracted, with many questions coming your way and your focus broken, plan your week so that when you are working from home you are able to work on those tasks that need a lot of focus and attention. Keep office time for collaboration, discussion and reconnecting.
Hybrid working will become a new norm for many people and over this past year it has become apparent that many of us can work from home successfully. However, we are still in the early stages of getting it right and there will undoubtedly be a period of transition. Look after your wellbeing and manage your stress during this time by being open to change, adopting a growth mindset and keeping talking.
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