The nature of business means there is always going to be a certain level of stress. Some stress can be good, such as setting challenging but realistic targets to improve motivation, but minimizing bad stress can improve the overall health of yourself and those you work with.
According to the World Health Organization stress costs American businesses $300 billion dollars a year. Data from the American Psychological Association confirms this is having a huge impact on lost productivity, sick days and medical treatment with two in five employees report chronic work related stress. Stress can be detrimental to both the mental and physical wellbeing of a person, the APA found that 40% of people report chronic work related stress.
At The Positive Group we've implemented strategies to give our staff the best chance of succeeding, while each individual is given the freedom to implement their own strategies as well. Here I've listed some of our favourite tips for being healthy and stress free.
Work / Life Balance
It doesn't take much at all to chew through the normal '40 hour' work week, go well beyond and still have important tasks left incomplete. This can lead to a life where the equal spread of work, rest and play that should make up our day becomes unevenly distorted, with work stealing time from us when we should be resting or enjoying our leisure time. I have to be incredibly honest with my time and brutally prioritise what is important at work. One of my tips is to schedule in these must have's of getting enough sleep, exercise and spending time with family and friends. . It's so easy to get hijacked by scope and time creep so I make sure I have 'stop working' times to stay motivated and know when to head out the door.
Take your breaks
I used to be an absolute shocker in this department. I've had to really push to change some old habits but now know that the last thing you want to be doing is eating lunch at your desk every day, or working for long hours on tasks to try and be productive.
It's vital you step away from the computer, take a break to eat something nutritious and disconnect from your tasks for a while. If I'm not meeting with clients, then I always make sure I take a break to move and connect with people.
The research clearly shows that you are going to be far more productive over a longer period of time if you take short breaks. I've found that a few minutes break every half an hour will make a world of difference to productivity. It's also a great way to create positive relationships if you are working with staff, rather than being disconnected and isolated. I strongly suggest you share your lunch time and see what difference it makes to get up and move.
We've all felt the overwhelming tension that can build up inside when we've got a number of jobs in the air at once, especially when there are tight deadlines added to the mix. It's hard to know where to start and what to prioritise, so time is wasted and you don't get as much done as you should. When taking on tasks or accepting jobs, be realistic about what you can do and how long it is going to take.
Plan for the future
A lot of people are unsure whether their current occupation is right for them, and what their career path should be. This can create an unhealthy attitude to their day to day performance, and decrease their own self-worth to the organisation. While it's not vital to have your entire career mapped out from start to finish, it is a good idea to understand where you are now, and where you would like to get to in the next 3-5 years. Organising training, education and mentoring programs will ensure you've always have a goal to aim towards, keeping you focused on your work and on track to achieve your professional ambitions. This should be a priority for both the employee and employer.
Clean your workspace
Do you have a desk filled with newspapers or magazines, post-it notes stuck to every available surface, folders stacked on top of each other and growing by the day, and business cards scattered all of the place? This causes stress because you can't totally focus on your job when there is so much clutter in your workspace. Organising your workspace by dedicating a spot that is easily accessible for each item you need will increase your efficiency, and decrease the mental drain you experience every time you try and find something you need but can't.
Personalise your workspace
While I'm on the topic of your workspace, studies prove that adding a few personal touches can relieve stress. For example, frame some personal photos and sit them on your desk or hang them on a wall, add personal belongings that have special meaning, or decorate with your favourite colours. Adding plants has also been proven to reduce absenteeism, stress and high blood pressure, while adding a touch of natural beauty to the work environment.
It's ok to ask for help
If you're feeling the stress of work and are struggling to cope, don't be afraid to ask for help. Whether it's an excessive workload, a clash of personalities with a colleague, or events in your personal life that are impacting on your work life, don't let it adversely affect your health by staying silent. Everyone gets overwhelmed at times, and managers are generally very good at creating solutions to relieve the pressure you may be under. After all, a happy and hard working employee makes life much easier for managers, so they will do all they can to help.
For some people change of any sort can increase stress. Whether it's changing the layout of the workspace, updating company software, or altering operational procedures, a sudden change from the norm can cause a lot of concern for employees. It's a common cliche, but I like to work smarter, not harder. I'm not afraid of hard work, but if we can get the job done more efficiently by making a change to our business practices in some way, then the short term pain for the long term gain will be worth it. Employees need to accept that in today's world change is happening all the time, and by accepting and embracing change, you may actually see your stress levels decrease over time.
Many workplace stresses can be eliminated by incorporating a collaborative approach with your employees. Sometimes these changes can be as easy as increasing communication, while other changes may incur a cost such as social events and charitable causes. However, any costs in time and money will be well spent given the incredible advantages of having a stress-free and healthy workforce.
About the author
Tom Caesar is the Managing Director of The Positive Group, a group of Australian financial services companies offering a broad range of finance to clients Australia wide. The Positive Group assist clients in the areas of car finance, mortgages, insurance and wealth management. Tom has been in car and asset finance for over 10 years. Tom regularly contributes articles on car finance, insurance, technology and business growth, drawing on his experience of starting his own brokerage in 2009.