Guest Post By Jean Cherry
Let’s face it–work can be stressful. Demands have increased to the point that it is difficult to fit work within a 40-hour work week without creeping into personal time. Companies have changed the way they do business with the globalization of the economy, increased technological innovations, and changing worker demographics. Organizations restructure and downsize more frequently, require higher performance, and provide opportunities for more flexible work arrangements such as telecommuting. Work-life balance is challenging for families with both spouses working.
With all these changes, how are workers managing work life? A 2017 StressPulseSM survey by ComPsych found three out of five people are highly stressed. The sources of workplace stress cited were workload, people issues, lack of job security, and juggling work and personal lives. One-third of workers reported losing at least one hour of productivity per day, and over 50 percent missed one to two days of work a year due to stress.
Stress is not all bad; it can motivate people or prepare the body in dangerous situations to fight back or flee to a safe place. But long-term it can be harmful to your health, affecting sleep, digestive, immune and reproductive systems. Chronic stress can lead to more viral infections. Some illnesses associated with chronic stress include heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or mental disorders such as depression and anxiety.
How can stress at work be diminished? Try a few of these tips to de-stress your work day:
- Workspace– Whether working in an office with doors, cube or open space with the workplace of tomorrow, keep desks organized and free of clutter. It’s difficult to concentrate when stacks of paper, journals or folders cause distractions. That also applies to a computer desktop. Some people have their desktop screen so full of files; they have a hard time finding information quickly. Organized desktops make it is easier to focus on the work to be done.
- Time management– Start the day by prioritizing work to be done. Running from meeting to meeting all day can increase stress levels and decrease productivity. Carving out blocks of time to complete tasks and projects can help. To do this, find ways to reduce the number of meetings attended by delegating to others if possible or declining a meeting if you are not needed directly.
- Focus– Another time waster is checking email repeatedly throughout the day. In a 2016 survey, 18 percent of respondents said they checked email four to nine times a day, while 11 percent checked over 15 times a day. If you choose to look and respond to emails at several specific periods of the day, you will have fewer distractions and more time to focus on your work.
- Defined tasks– There is nothing more frustrating than confusion over specific projects or job requirements. Stress increases when it takes multiple attempts to accomplish a task. Extra time up front to understand expectations can save time in the long run.
Focus on these areas to help juggle work and personal life:
- Relationships– Issues with people was the second highest reason for workplace stress in the survey cited above. While it is essential to get work done, it is imperative to build good working relationships. Positive interactions with co-workers inside the company and clients or vendors outside the company can bring more opportunities for professional growth, and getting along with co-workers makes work more enjoyable.
- Meals– Bodies need nutritious food to operate at peak performance. Start each day with a healthy breakfast. Skip that pastry a coworker brought in for the office, which will cause your blood sugar to rise and drop quickly leaving you feeling lethargic. Make time for lunch. If meetings get scheduled over lunch, grab a salad or protein bar to go. Hunger can magnify work stress.
- Self-awareness– Overall stress can build up and affect our health, from minor headaches or stomachaches to more severe consequences such as heart attaches or addictions. Sometimes the cause of stress is not apparent. Take inventory of what is causing pressure in life—it could be different for each person and each job. Stress-reduction strategies range from taking a vacation for a short break to changing positions altogether. Just take it one step at a time. Your health is worth it.
If stress becomes overwhelming, there are health professionals available to help. Check with your physician for recommendations or find a mental health advisor at nih.gov.
Jean Cherry, RN, MBA enjoys sharing tips to help those focused on their career to help de-stress at work. She writes for Walgreens.com, where you can find a variety of vitamins and supplements to help boost your overall health.