Work stress isn’t a new phenomenon, but many workers are experiencing it for the first time. And it’s no wonder. Workers are worried they will join the unemployment queue at any moment, some are working long hours and for some working from home is a first.
With work-related stress levels at an all-time high, here are six tips for keeping it in check.
#1 Switch Off
Many people are working from home for the first time in their working life. In the past when they left the office at 5pm, they could switch off and not think about work until they returned the next day. Now that the physical distance between work and home has disappeared, they find it’s not so easy to switch off.
Make a conscious effort not to think about work. Keeping busy until bedtime can help you stop worrying.
Try to do something you enjoy like:
watching a movie
strike up a conversation
do some exercise
spend time on a hobby
#2 Be Gentle on Yourself
The current working and social distancing situation is unprecedented. Many of us, for some time, have been used to living life at a million miles an hour, trying to cram in extra working hours and family commitments. Those who are still working are mostly at home with the same (if not more) work responsibilities and are having to accommodate new working practices, like Zoom/Teams online meetings as well as sometimes working and living alongside their partners. Also, many school-aged children are at home, bored, requesting additional screen time with no sports outlets or friends catch-ups to keep them occupied. Most working parents with school-aged children have had to juggle trying to work as well as delivering their children’s school curriculum.
Many of us are feeling an increased sense of failure at the moment as we juggle so many new variables. The main solution to this is to adjust your expectations- be kinder to yourself and those around you. This situation is a moment in time and will pass. Our children will survive and their education is unlikely to be impacted in the long term. Check your mood and reflect on the number of calming things you have said to yourself and others today and compare to how many times you have stressed, snapped or lost your temper. If you find you are unbalanced towards negative thoughts and emotions, then it's time to focus on calming activities and adjust the way you are thinking.
#3 Stay Connected
In the past you were probably working around colleagues you could use to bounce ideas off, gain feedback and reassurance you were doing a great job.
If you’re working remotely now, you may struggle with the loss of reassurance and the company of colleagues. For more feedback, ask your manager if you can call or email more than you might already be. Suggest your team does a quick daily video catch-up so you are checking in with each other.
Maintaining healthy relationships is one of the key components to resilience and happiness. Switch off at your usual working time and make time to catch up with friends using digital means, social media, or make a call.
#4 Create Some Distance
If you have the room in your home, try to set up a work area that’s separate from your living area. Using a study means you can close the door at the end of the work day.
Working from the kitchen table means your work materials are always in sight and the constant reminder can add to the stress. If limited space means you have to work in your living or sleeping space, try packing your laptop and papers away into a work bag at 5pm to provide some closure on the work day.
#5 Ask for Leave
When many workers are taking forced leave, there is nothing wrong with volunteering to take annual or long service leave. If you’re finding work stressful, taking leave may be the best option.
Many workers have more responsibilities than last year. You may be providing care for an elderly relative, by dropping off groceries or you may have children who require homeschooling and care. For many, the combination of increased personal responsibilities and work is too much pressure and hours. You could start with one or two weeks leave to allow you to put in place some new systems that will make life easier, or you could ask to drop some hours ongoing to make work more manageable.
#6 Ask for Help
Everyone understands healthcare workers have higher workloads and stress, but there are plenty of other Australians who have increased demands at work right now. Sustained high workloads and stress can cause long-lasting physical and mental problems.
If you’re struggling to keep up with the volume of work, don’t be afraid to speak to your manager. Suggest you drop some of your responsibilities in one area to allow you more time to catch up on other areas of your work or delegate part of your role to another staff member.
If you’re a manager or business owner, delegate some of your responsibilities to an employee to free up time to deal with the tasks only you can do. Managing stressed employees can add to your own stress levels.
#7 Talk to Someone
If you’re suffering from work or personal stress, you’re not alone. Everyone in the Australian community has been impacted by COVID-19. There is no need to dismiss work stress because you should be ‘grateful you still have a job’.
If your employer has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), make contact and talk to someone. It provides a confidential counselling service for employees (and often their immediate family members) suffering from personal or work related issues.
There are also national counselling organisations helping thousands of people like you, get help during this incredibly difficult time.
Beyondblue 1300 22 4636
Lifeline 13 11 14
MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
Open Arms Veterans and Families Counselling 1800 011 046
When you’re living with high levels of stress, it’s easy to cut yourself off from friends and family. More than ever, keep in contact by phone or a video call service like WhatsApp. While you’re socialising at a distance, you’re able to give yourself a break from the work stress.
If you need support or advice during this challenging time, contact an experienced psychologist at PeopleSense by Altius on 1300 307 912 or (08) 9388 9000, or contact us online.