Top tips for managing stress at work
To coincide with National Stress Awareness Day, our HR Officer, Victoria Aslan, and Employment Law Partner, Samantha Castle, share their top tips for dealing with stress and how to spot the signs in the workplace.
What is stress?
The official definition of stress is a ‘state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances’, however, it’s important to emphasise that all people feel different levels of stress for different reasons. Some people thrive in stressful situations, such as high-pressure jobs or working to a tight deadline, but too much stress may eventually become overwhelming.
Mark Rowland, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation explains, “Stress is not a mental health problem itself. The stress response is a survival strategy to keep us safe. It was a vital adaption when looking to survive being eaten on the Savannah.”
So it’s not simply the being stressed part that’s the problem, it’s how we cope.
What does stress look like?
In today’s society, stress plays a massive part in our everyday life. Most people on social media will have seen (and identified with) the meme of the dishevelled lady saying something along the lines of “me… working full time, looking after my kids, remembering to pay my bills, going for a promotion, remembering the food shopping, cleaning my house, trying to exercise, having a social life and remembering to drink two litres of water a day”.
If this is the pressure on us today, is it any wonder that an online poll commissioned by YouGov highlighted that, in the last year, 74% of people felt so stressed they had been overwhelmed or unable to cope?
Within their statistics they show a connection between the reason and age and sex. For example, 49% of 18-24 year olds experienced high levels of stress and within that group they felt that comparing themselves to others was a source of stress, which was higher than the older age group.
You could argue that younger people now have more stress, due to the society we live in today, however could that be down to the fact that we are more willing to talk about mental health? Looking back at previous generations, those who worried about body image may have been criticised for being vain, so they didn’t speak out. Either way, the important thing to note is that we need to stop attaching such a stigma to poor mental health.
How can I cope with stress?
Once stress gets to an ‘unhealthy’ level where we can no longer use it as motivation, you will notice that it affects a person’s mood, relationships and even appearance. In colleagues, you may notice that they seem withdrawn or uncharacteristically emotional or that they’ve started drinking or smoking more than usual. They may also be taking more time off sick than usual or have taken extended sick leave.
At Barcan+Kirby we recognise that we all have mental health to consider, and we want to insure we are helping our colleagues who are suffering with poor mental health. In recognition of the recent Mental Health Awareness Day, our Mental Health First Aiders ensured we all took some time away from our desks and socialised with our colleagues over a cup of tea. It may sound simple, but taking that few minutes away from your work to have a chat can make a huge difference.
On this day, we discussed between us what stress looks like and how we cope as individuals. Some examples of what stress looks like were, “I become withdrawn” and “I become snappy”, and some of the coping mechanisms included, “I exercise”, “I talk to my friends” or “I read a book”.
These examples tie in nicely with the tips for coping with stress that the NHS recommend, which include: talk to someone, be more active and split big tasks up.
It’s useful to know both your own triggers and those of your colleagues, so you can help with early intervention. By spotting these signs, you can then help signpost them to the right help. If you or an employee are showing signs of stress in the workplace, it’s crucial that line managers broach the subject early on to ensure that person’s needs are met and appropriate support is implemented. Basic good people management skills and the use of empathy are at the heart of effective management of mental health in the workplace.
How does Barcan+Kirby support their employees’ mental health well-being?
Here at Barcan+Kirby we have our own team of qualified Mental Health First Aiders who are here to listen to any problems any of our staff are having relating to mental health on a confidential basis. In some of our offices, the staff have arranged monthly walking and weekly running groups.
We also offer a complimentary employee assistance programme, which gives our employees access to counselling and well-being support. We are proud to offer flexible working which allows our staff to have a better work-life balance, and 66% of our staff work part-time or on adjusted full time hours.
Overall the most important thing is to be understanding, supportive and to listen.
How we can help
Our experienced employment solicitors can advise you on legal issues around repeated or extended sickness absence due to poor mental health, and help you to implement workplace sickness policy which safeguards both you and your employees.