Disconnected? Spotting and dealing with work-related stress

workplace stress (cropped)

Smart phones, tablets, laptops - they are all the wonders of the modern world, designed to keep you in touch wherever you go. Right?

But is intense connectivity all it’s cracked up to be?

Many experts believe that the 24/7 nature of technology is contributing to the increasing problem of workplace stress. Health and Safety Executive (HSE) figures show that 11.3million working days were lost to work-related stress in 2013-14, accounting for 39% cent of all work-related illness. Recent research by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) even claimed that as often as every two minutes, a worker is made ill through work-related stress.

It can be hard to spot the signs of workplace stress in someone, or to recognise them in yourself. All too often, someone will be at breaking point before they consider going to their GP or asking for help.

Our LionHeart counsellors say these signs might include:

  • Working out of hours: regularly coming in early, or staying late
  • Emails sent late at night or very early in the morning may mean someone struggling to switch off
  • Odd days of sickness, especially on Mondays. Research undertaken by reed.co.uk shows that people feel most stressed on a Sunday night and may believe they are unable to face the week ahead
  • Cutting off colleagues: no longer engaging in light chat or talking about personal life
  • Lost sense of humour
  • Being withdrawn or irritable
  • Not taking time away from the desk, to eat lunch for example
  • Drinking more alcohol or comfort eating
  • Physical symptoms may include sleeplessness, exhaustion, or unexplained headaches or backaches
  • Lost interest in hobbies or spending time with friends and family

It may be that someone who is suffering from work-related stress feels uncomfortable telling their colleagues or bosses about it. However, taking action early can help prevent the problem from spiralling out of control and leading to serious mental health problems.

LionHeart support officer Ben Halpin offers the following tips on how to reduce and cope with work-related stress:

The working environment

  • Switch your work smart phone, tablet and laptop off when the working day is over and don’t check work emails outside of working hours
  • Have a set time to do specific things, like checking emails, and organise your inbox so it doesn’t seem like you have multiple tasks to complete at once
  • Learn how to say no, or set boundaries. If your boss asks: “Can you just do X, Y or Z before you go”, practise saying politely: “I haven’t got time to do that now, but I’ll be back in at 9am and I can deal with that first”
  • Prioritise your work load so you don’t get bogged down with things that aren’t important or not needed straight away
  • Learn to delegate
  • Talk to a trusted colleague or raise the issue with your boss. It’s better and cheaper for them to get to the root of stress than for you to go off sick for long periods
  • Take regular breaks

Outside of work

  • Make time for yourself. Have a hobby, pastime or other activity that you enjoy doing and set aside a regular day or time to do it
  • Take regular exercise and try to eat a healthy diet
  • Make time for your hobbies, friends and family
  • Getting enough sleep. Set a regular time to go to bed and try to avoid having TVs, laptops, tablets and smart phones in the bedroom

And don’t forget, if you wish to share your worries, confidential support is available from LionHeart counsellors and support officers. Call 0845 6039057 or email info@lionheart.org.uk

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