There’s a sense of comradery when it comes to stress in the workplace, with the boss usually being the stressor and the subordinates, the sufferers. Coping with stress is never an easy task and employees often struggle at managing stress in the office environment because they are simply too busy being stressed.
Working in high stress environments increases the risk of both suffering physical illness or symptoms of psychological distress (Cooper & Cartwright, 1994; Cooper & Payne, 1988, cited in Clarke & Cooper, 2004), and also work-related accidents and injuries (Sutherland & Cooper, 1991, cited in Clarke & Cooper, 2004).
There are various ways of managing stress though, and using these strategies can go a long way in helping you reduce the amount of stress you experience at work:
“In order for an individual to experience stress symptoms, first, the source of stress must be ‘negatively perceived,’…” (Cartwright & Cooper, 1997, cited in Clarke & Cooper, 2004). This means that if you want to avoid stress down the road, then you need to have a positive outlook on the tasks in front of you.
Visualize your work as a means by which you can improve yourself personally. Learn something new, try a new idea, set a new personal record in efficiency and productivity. Focus on the benefits, because if you’re moaning before you begin, you can be sure you will be moaning all throughout, and possibly even long after the job is done.
Managing stress in the workplace is like managing stress in almost any other situation. Anxiety and stress often stem from taking on too much in too little time. “Stress arises when the demands of a particular encounter are appraised by the individual as about to exceed the available resources and, therefore, threaten well-being, and necessitate a change in individual functioning to restore the imbalance” (Lazarus, 1991, cited in Clarke & Cooper, 2004).
If you have an abundance of tasks/errands that are not needed right now, then let them rollover. Going to the bank during lunch might not be absolutely necessary and if your to-do list for the day is already full then you can always wait until the time is right to fit it in. Do not let your list dictate your life.
3. Proper Time Management
“Proactive, task-focused coping styles, which deal with the problem itself (e.g. improving time management skills to cope with a heavy workload) are likely to be more effective than reactive, emotion-focused coping styles, which aim to mitigate the side effects” (Clarke & Cooper, 2004).
Try penciling in your to-do lists or appointments to help you keep track of what needs to be done, and when. Managing your time wisely allows for flexibility should anything unexpected arise. Writing with a pencil also gives you the added benefit of using that wonderful tool known as an eraser. No one likes to see a messy collection of ink marks and blotches. Instead of crossing out words or completed tasks, erase them completely from page and memory alike.
4. Maintain Control
“Control in the workplace is of particular importance if individuals are expected to cope successfully with challenging work environments” (Clarke & Cooper, 2004). Employees who are able to choose how long they work, what they work on, etc. show much less stress than those whose autonomy and decision-making rights are restricted. Having greater control over what you do each day has been linked with decreased anxiety, decreased depression, increased job performance and increased life satisfaction. So if you ever have a choice between which tasks you will perform at work, always choose the assignment that gives you the most freedom of choice.
5. Build Strong Relationships.
If you don’t have any friends at work, then perhaps it’s time you got a few. Research has shown that social support can “have a buffering effect, reducing the psychological strain associated with workplace stressors by providing instrumental support (by helping individuals attend to the problem) and emotional support (by modifying their perception that the stressor is damaging their well-being)” (Clarke & Cooper, 2004).
So tomorrow morning when you go to work, don’t just ignore that girl who keeps staring at you or that guy who never shuts up. Give them a fair shot. Show some interest and see where it all goes. After a few months, they might be only reasons keeping you from throttling your boss or hurling yourself out the window
Dave Peterson has worked for a good few companies in his time. From hostel reception areas to serviced offices, he’s been in a few different office environments. One thing that doesn’t change whether you’re a bus boy in a hotel or managing a team occupying executive suites Long Beach, stress will be a factor and Dave has become quite the expert in this field, handing out various gems of advice regarding coping within the workplace.
Clarke, S. & Cooper, C. L., (2004). Managing the risk of workplace stress: health and safety hazards. United Kingdom: Routledge.
Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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