47% of working Canadians consider stress in the workplace to be the most stressful part of daily life. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
Not all stress is bad. A little stress can help you stay focused, energetic, and able to meet new challenges in the workplace. But when stress becomes persistent and exceeds your ability to cope, it can interfere with your productivity and performance, and be harmful to your physical and emotional health.
Common Causes of Workplace Stress
- Staff layoffs
- Low salaries
- Excessive workloads
- Challenges with co-workers
- Unreasonable work deadlines
- Lack of control over job-related decisions
- Conflicting demands and unclear expectations from management
- Lack of social support
According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, workplace stress is the main cause of mental health issues.
Symptoms of Workplace Stress
- Anxiety, irritability, and depression
- Difficulty concentrating
- High blood pressure
- Weight gain
- Muscle tension
- Upset stomach
- Substance abuse
You can’t always control what happens in your work environment, but you can take steps to protect yourself from the damaging effects of stress by adopting some effective stress management techniques. It’s time to take action.
Managing Workplace Stress
Understand Expectations: Make sure you understand exactly what’s expected of you. Do you understand the requirements of your position or assignment? Talk with your supervisor and go over expectations, and strategies to meet them. Their expectations might not be as challenging as you think.
Avoid Employee Conflict: If you want to work in a more positive workplace environment, you have to be positive. Occasional personality clashes can’t be avoided, but by ignoring office gossip, steering clear of co-worker’s disagreements, and by maintaining an upbeat and cooperative disposition, you can limit much of the workplace stress caused by interpersonal conflict.
Establish Boundaries: Many of us feel pressured to be available to employers or clients 24 hours a day. But establishing healthy work-life boundaries like learning to ignore work-related emails and calls after hours, will help reduce the potential for work-life conflict, stress, and resentment.
Release Control: Accept the things you cannot control. Deadlines, bureaucracy, and difficult colleagues; don’t try to control the uncontrollable, you’ll be setting yourself up for failure. Set realistic expectations and be prepared for challenges ahead.
Develop Stress-Reducing Habits: When stress is mounting at work, take a break and move away from the stressful situation. Take a walk, call a friend, listen to music, or practice some deep breathing exercises. Use your lunch break to visit the gym or to take a yoga class, exercise is a great stress-reliever and mood-enhancer. And, learn to be mindful and to live in the present. Being able to focus purposefully on a single activity without distraction can help you manage your feelings of anxiety and make you a happier and more efficient worker.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep: The better rested you are, the better equipped you will be to tackle workplace stress. When you’re tired, you’re less patient and easily agitated. Your focus and problem-solving skills are compromised and you’re less productive. Follow doctor’s advice and get 7-9 hours of sleep per night for optimal health and well-being.
Take Time Off: Taking the vacation time and personal days you’re allotted is vital for maintaining a good work-life balance. Use this recovery time to recharge your batteries and to gain perspective, so you can return to work ready to perform at your best. If you’re struggling with more serious mental health concerns and are facing a breakdown, ask for a temporary leave-of-absence. Your health is more important than an empty inbox.
Talk to Your Manager: Have an open and honest conversation with your supervisor. Let them know the specific conditions that are impacting your work performance and suggest meaningful solutions for managing the stressors you’ve identified. Employers have incentive to invest in their employee’s well-being. Happy and healthy employees are more productive.
Seek Support: Sharing your concerns with trusted friends and family members can help improve your ability to manage stress, but for chronic mental health issues, seek professional stress management resources from your Employee Assistance Program (EAP), or from a licensed mental health expert.