Workplace stress - UK we have a problem! - Business Works
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Workplace stress - UK we have a problem!

Jayne Carrington, MD, Right Management Workplace Wellness I n the wake of National Stress Awareness Day this week, Jayne Carrington, MD of Right Management Workplace Wellness highlights the extent to which UK Plc has a problem.

Although we are slowly coming out of recession we are left with a legacy in which many workplaces continue to have to do more with less. This puts a great deal of pressure on employees who are approaching the limit of their capacity to cope, meaning that if anything stressful was also to occur at work or in their personal life they are less able to apply resilient coping strategies and they are far more likely to suffer from emotional and physical health problems.

There is growing evidence of presenteeism Ė in which the employee is at work, but disengaged and unproductive - and also, due to increased work demands encroaching on personal time, staff who are experiencing a less healthy lifestyle. Some long-hours workers have been shown to spend almost no social time with their children, for example. Significantly our most recent Employee Assistance Programme data showed us that 85% of callersí disquiet was stress created outside of the workplace, compared to 15% created at work. The problem for the employer is that all of this stress is bundled together and arrives with the employee to impact the workplace and all of it needs to be viewed as a bar to organisational effectiveness and efficiency.

We work in the Human Age, recognising that the most important resource for the organisation is its people and it is more critical than ever that employers encourage and facilitate individual resilience as part of their company culture. Resilience is key; it is a pre-emptive strike against stress - rather than waiting for it and seeking a cure. Resilience looks at the situations that are more likely to create stress and prepares the individual. In the 'new normal' of high pressure conditions in many a UK workplace, building a skill-set that makes these more manageable and stress less likely is critical.

Resilience can be taught. It is a myth that resilience to stressful situations and change is something you are either born with or without. Through our work with global health solutions provider vielife we have developed training that encourages a personís self-awareness and empowers them to change any negative or unhelpful behaviour patterns. Taking a step-wise approach we help people build personal resilience. For National Stress Awareness Day and based on our steps to help mitigate the effects of stress and enhance workplace performance, we offer the following advice:

Step one: Try and think objectively about what your reaction is to stress. Peopleís typical reactions and persona can change considerably when they are under pressure. If youíre going to make changes to how you deal with stress in the long term you need to understand how you already react so you can spot what needs to change.

Step two: Separate challenges into what you can and canít control. It is energy-sapping to battle against things that are outside of your control. Good stress management involves identifying the factors that are within your control and applying energy where it is going to be most effective. Let go of some of the unwinnable battles.

Step three: Set manageable goals and stick to them. There is an old saying Ė eat the elephant one mouthful at a time. Donít encourage overwhelming stress by taking on tasks that are too big for you to complete.

Step four: Make time to focus on the positives. At times of pressure we can lose sight of the positives, the strengths and the successes. Focusing your energy on high points will give you the strength to approach challenging situations with a winning mind-set, rather than dwelling on the negatives.

Step five: Think carefully about how you communicate under pressure. Every workforce says that communication could be improved. In high-pressure situations this is even more pronounced Ė good communication is a key strand in a strategy to develop good outcomes. It is always a good policy when you find yourself facing rising stress levels to take extra care in reviewing emails, letters, memos and other messages which may be written in haste and lead to confusion or antagonism.

Step six: Structure your time in a way that allows you to achieve goals. Our perception of time becomes very warped under pressure and there is good evidence that working long hours is ultimately counterproductive. The key is to recognise the pace of the work and to be aware of the time that is needed for each element. Donít be afraid to turn off and go home at the end of a working day.

For information about building resilience techniques and the core 6 steps, visit: or contact:

Jayne Carrington is the Managing Director of Right Management Workplace Wellness, the health and wellbeing experts of Right Management, the strategic workforce consulting arm of ManpowerGroup. The company is one of the UK's leading providers of Employee Assistance Programmes, training, consultancy and mediation services.

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