Survivor: Workplace Stress – Tips for Coping with Stress at the Office
Sure, we all know we are supposed to be getting a good night’s sleep, eating well, exercising and leaving work behind at the office. Unfortunately, it’s easier said than done. Stress creeps into our life — at home and at the office. Workplace stress has become so common, that it is unusual if someone isn’t stressed at work! Consider these facts:
- 25% view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives;
- Three fourths of employees believe that workers have more on-the-job stress than a generation ago;
- Job stress is more strongly associated with health complaints than financial or family problems.
In fact, if you are a typical North American, there is a good chance you are working more hours than ever before. In a recent survey, 40% of respondents described their office environment as “most like a real life survivor program.”
Are you facing your own real life survivor situation?
If so, here are a few tips to help you stay in the game — more relaxed and ready to take on the day!
Create a Peaceful Space
Take a hard cold look at your workspace. Are books, papers and CDs scattered around? Is your corkboard a mess of notes? Do you have to look around to find documents? That lost time — a few minutes here or there — can really add up over the course of a day. Organize your space in a way that works for you. It doesn’t have to look perfect to anyone else, but as long as you can find what you are looking for in mere seconds — and you have the space you need to work… without knocking over your coffee cup. If you can, personalize your space with a lush green plant, or pictures of your kids. And don’t forget a photo of your ideal chill zone, perhaps it’s a shot of the view from your cottage window, or a beach from your last vacation — whatever it is, a photo of a wonderfully relaxing destination can do wonders!
Block Out the Noise
Sometimes stress can come from noisy co-workers, low-level open-office noise such as muffled conversations, squeaky chairs or doors as well as photocopier, fax machine, computer and printer sounds can interrupt our ability to concentrate, and can add to our stress levels. Got a noisy neighbor? Sometimes a polite reminder to a colleague that their private conversations can be heard is all it takes. And other times you have to do your part: invest in a set of ear plugs. Or get a headset and listen to music that can motivate you and take your mind off the day’s stresses without interfering with your work. Remember that even with a headset, music can be heard, so keep the volume down so that it is for your ears only.
Take a Break
Yes, you’re busy, but you can always take a five minute break to take a short walk, get a glass of water or do some stretches and breathing exercises at your desk. Try to leave your desk and go for a short walk every two hours. It will help your circulation and give you the little break you need to refresh your body and your mind and cut down on stress in the process. On occasion, we all work through our lunch hour, but try to limit the amount of time you eat lunch at your desk. Get out of the office, and take a break from the workplace environment.
The phone rings, emails flood our inbox, co-workers drop by our cubicle. On a good day we can take it in stride, but when you have a deadline or are stressed, interruptions need to be limited. If your desk is positioned so that you face out to the hallway, the likelihood is that colleagues and co-workers can more easily catch your eye and stop by for a little chat. Move your desk so that you are less susceptible to hallway traffic. Use your voice mail to your advantage. Only take calls that are a priority, and let the others go to voice mail. Set aside a more convenient time in your day for call-backs. Do the same for email. You don’t need to answer every email instantly. Email can be a huge time-waster, so schedule set times during the day to read and respond to emails.
Plan & Schedule
At the end of every day, write a list of what needs to be done the following day. In the morning review the list and tackle them in that priority. Avoid a common “procrastinator technique” of completing the less important or easiest tasks first! If you commute to work, you can use the time on the train or bus to schedule your day. Be sure to leave approximately 20% of your day free, this way you have allotted time for emergencies, unexpected projects, and, of course, various unavoidable interruptions.
Finally, learn to transition from work life to home life. When you walk out the office door, start to think about your family, your friends or something you love to do. Refrain from working on the weekends or checking your work email. You need your downtime, so make sure you get it.