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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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’.
- 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.
- 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.