APodA HR Advisory Service

How to reduce stress during work

Jack Byrnes

APodA HR Advisory Service

Managing stress and staying mentally healthy when you are working is critical to overall health and wellbeing. This article provides some practical tips to limit stress and better protect everyone’s mental health during work.

It really matters to everyone to limit stress during work since it can reduce the likelihood of more serious health issues further down the line.

Stress can be insidious and creep up on all of us. Let alone during these particularly difficult times of COVID. 


If stress is not appropriately managed it can lead to more serious mental and physical health issues. In fact, for employers, there is an obligation under the Work, Health and Safety Act 2011 to provide a safe and healthy workplace for all workers. 


It really matters to everyone to limit stress during work since it can reduce the likelihood of more serious health issues further down the line.


Signs of stress

Stress can affect people differently, so it’s worth paying attention to the following signs. These signs do not automatically indicate stress since they can relate to a range of health issues, but they may signal that someone is under pressure.

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Muscle tension
  • Chest pains
  • Low energy
  • High blood pressure
  • Appearing dishevelled


Tips for everyone

So, what can you do if you are feeling stressed during work? Here are some tips.


  1. Plan ahead: Staying organised and keeping on top of tasks is a critical way to reduce stress at work. Use a diary or calendar to plan ahead and avoid feeling overwhelmed when workloads increase.
  1. Talk to your manager (or employer): Don’t be afraid of stigma – if you feel your work is beginning to cause high levels of stress, speak with your manager or employer early on and if possible, come with some solutions to start a productive conversation
  1. Spend time doing things you enjoy: While work is an important part of our lives, it is important not to let it consume us. Outside of work, look to engage in activities that you enjoy such as sport, reading or catching up with friends. It can be difficult if you are in lockdown but these activities can be carried out closer to home via online tools such as Zoom and online exercise classes.
  1. Stay healthy: Eating well, getting adequate sleep and exercising regularly are some of the most important things we can do to stay on top of our stress levels at work. Ironically, when we feel stressed, these things can slide. Ask for support and accountability from someone you trust if this helps you to get back on track.
  1. Take your lunch break: One of the major contributors to stress is employees working through their lunch break. While it may seem unavoidable at times, always try to use your allocated lunch break to pause, eat something nutritious, and recharge your batteries.
  1. Monitor your overtime: If you feel you are working excessive hours, speak to your manager or if you are the manager, then reflect on what can change. While the National Employment Standards allow for ‘reasonable overtime’ to be worked, the health and safety of any employee is absolutely paramount when determining whether overtime is ‘reasonable’.
  1. Use your annual leave: Provided you are following any applicable policy in your workplace, use your annual leave entitlement when you feel you need a break to refresh and recharge. After all, that is largely what annual leave is designed for! It may feel difficult to take leave when you are already stressed by your workload, but this break can provide you with much needed perspective and some new strategies.
  1. Get support: If you feel you are struggling, help is available. The APodA provides a Member Assistance Program which you can access here. Or consider speaking to your GP or another relevant health professional if you prefer.


For crisis support, please see a list of relevant contact numbers below.

  • Lifeline: 13 11 14
  • Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636


The APodA HR Advisory Service has a suite of dedicated wellbeing resources in our online resources portal here.

Are you a manager or employer? Here are some tips to specifically help you in this role.

Tips for managers

Are you a manager or employer? Here are some tips to specifically help you in this role. 


Be reasonable in your expectations

While every employee is expected to perform to a particular standard – one which positively contributes to the overall functionality of your practice – placing unreasonable or unrealistic expectations on employees can be one of the key triggers of workplace stress. 


Demanding excessive overtime, placing an unrealistic deadline on a particular task or repeatedly expecting an employee to perform at a level ‘beyond their pay grade’ can contribute significantly to workplace stress.


Bear in mind also that with many states in and out of lockdown, employee mental health can be impacted by this experience and efficiency may be lower than usual. 


Be clear, consistent and unambiguous

Two of the major contributors to stress in the workplace are task ambiguity and information overload. Task ambiguity is when a worker is not clear on the job at hand; whether this is from confusing instructions, lack of direction, or lack of training in a particular area of work. On the other hand, information overload is where employees are fed too much information, or expected to adhere to an entirely new and somewhat overwhelming set of procedures or guidelines relating to how they do their job. Managers need to be aware of the dangers of both and ensure they are clear, consistent, and unambiguous when managing their workers. 


Involve your workers and keep communication open

Where possible, seek input from your workers on potential changes or major decisions that could affect the workplace. This will help them to feel more valued and allow them to stay on top of their work. Similarly, ensure communication channels are open and transparent.


Be alert to any warning signs

Remember, stress is almost inevitable in the majority of workplaces. Managers therefore need to be alert for any signs of increased stress among their workforce. This could include employees appearing physically dishevelled, disinterested, or being absent from work more than usual. If you are concerned about a particular employee, contact the APodA HR Advisory Service.


Create a supportive working environment

Some environments isolate workers from one another and make it difficult for them to receive the encouragement and support of colleagues. Foster a supportive environment (either virtually or in person) where your staff can share problems and resources. Having the support of colleagues can help to alleviate the negative impact of stress on staff members' lives.


Be flexible

Many modern workers value non-monetary benefits just as much as financial rewards. Therefore, providing flexibility (where reasonable) will go a long way to ensuring your workforce is engaged, while also reducing the likelihood of stress arising.


Do not discriminate

Treating an employee adversely because they are suffering from a mental health condition is prohibited under the Fair Work Act 2009. This is particularly pertinent if an employee takes a period of absence from the workplace to manage their condition. Be supportive and work together with your employee (and, if applicable, their treating medical professional) to ensure they return to a safe working environment.


More information?

If you have any questions about this article, please contact the APodA HR Advisory Service on 1300 620 641 or hrhotline@podiatry.org.au. As always, our online resources are available 24/7 here



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