Let’s start with the tools we need to deal with workplace stress.
In a recent Harvard Business Review survey of more than 1.5 million employees across 185 countries, it was reported that 36 per cent of employees reported feeling highly or extremely stressed at work on a regular basis. This statistic came out prior to Covid-19, so one can imagine this figure has only increased.
According to WorkSafe NZ, effects of workplace stress include increased illness and disease, low morale and employee engagement, anxiety, low productivity and increased antisocial behaviour. So what can we do as individuals to reduce stress in our working lives?
After the typical one-plus hour commute common to many New Zealanders, we start the day on the wrong foot. Remember to kick off your morning with a well-balanced breakfast, listen to worship music or podcasts as you commute, and attempt to have a prayerful and positive attitude to the workday ahead. Another great option is to declare relevant scriptures over yourself and your situation in the morning.
Understand your requirements
Nothing is more stressful than working for a boss who regularly moves the goalposts for the work you are doing. If you are not sure what's expected of you, you never know if what you're doing is enough. Partner that with a boss who gives no (or only negative) feedback, and you are on a one way trip to stress town. In this scenario, it is important you talk to your manager and confirm what your daily / weekly expectations are, as well as strategies for achieving them.
Establish strong work / life boundaries
Due to the hyperconnectivity we now all have (even when we go on holiday or bereavement leave), it is easy to feel pressure to respond to emails, texts and calls on a 24-hour basis. Make sure you establish strong work-life boundaries and clearly communicate these to your boss and colleagues. These may include not checking emails or answering your phone in the evening. I know setting up these types of boundaries has significantly improved the quality of my family's and my own life.
Say No (nicely)
As a bit of a people-pleaser, I love to say yes to new things, helping out others and being seen as a bit of a work hero. Sadly, this leads to me becoming overworked and overcommitted, causing high levels of stress. Learning how to nicely say no is a vital and mature skill that can improve your confidence in your workplace. Negotiate priorities and respect others' right to say no too.
Walk away from conflict
Interpersonal conflict impacts your physical and emotional health, and workplace conflict is worse as you can't escape it by walking out the door. Therefore be proactive in avoiding conflict where you can through not joining in office gossip, not sharing too many divisive personal opinions, and being wary of dodgy office humour. Though you don't want to paint yourself as the boring one, many of the things we do to feel we fit in can lead to conflict and heightened stress later on.
Most Importantly - Bring God into the situation!
I remember being in highly stressful situations at work, with no option but to cry out to the Lord. Psalm 32v8 says “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go. I will counsel you with my eye upon you”. This has been a great comfort to me throughout my life, giving me peace that God is ultimately in control and He actually wants to help me! Trust that He is really available and at your side, ready to step in and support you at a moment’s notice.
Remember God really does answer prayers, and wants to help you in your situation. Bring God into your workspace through prayer, and trust in Him to help minimise stress, and improve your patience and resilience.
Tom O’Neil, Managing Director of CV.CO.NZ