There are many things that cause us to feel stress, including worries about money, relationships, health, and our friends and family. A common contributor to our worries is workplace stress. Many of us spend eight hours (or more) a day working, so it’s important to find ways to stop issues at work, or the pressure created by too much work, impacting on our precious personal time.
In the Australian Psychological Society Stress and wellbeing report, workplace stress was seen as a leading cause of stress by 31% of people, with 92% of all serious work-related mental health condition claims attributed to mental stress. While we will never eliminate workplace stress entirely, there are some steps we can take to minimise its impact on you, or your family, at home.
Addressing the cause of workplace stress
It can be hard to change the causes of workplace stress, as a lot of it is out of your hands. However, there are some simple things that you may be able to control – in particular, being as organised as possible, and communicating with those around you.
“Stress can often be caused by having too much work and not enough time to do it. Proper planning can help in using your time efficiently.”
Stress can often be caused by having too much work and not enough time to do it. Proper planning can help in using your time efficiently. Plan out your day, week and month. Prioritise the work you have, and manage the expectations of others. Don’t promise to deliver everything straight away – give people reasonable expectations of how long tasks will take and when you will get it to them (ideally without working extra hours).
Factor a lunch break in to your plans, and aim to leave work around the same time each day – you won’t operate at your best if you are over tired and overworked! Before you leave, write a list of what you need to carry over to the next day, to avoid thinking about it at home.
It’s also important not to suffer in silence. If you feel you can, then let your manager know about your concerns – be it too much work, or others on the team not pulling their weight. Make sure you are ready to suggest some solutions that you think might help. It may also help to talk to a counsellor about ways to manage your stress.
Lessening the impact of workplace stress on your home life
- Leave work at work: Try not to work during your downtime. When you bring work home, you also bring the stress and worry. Turn off the work email notifications on your phone (or better yet, try not to have work email on your mobile), and let people know that if there is an emergency, it’s better to call you.
- Put your working hours behind you: Take a walk before you go home or listen to the radio for a few minutes before getting out of the car – anything to relax you before you walk in the door.
- Talk it out, then move on: Some people like to download about work the minute they get in the door. Others will discuss their day over dinner. Some don’t like to talk about it at all, but will ruminate about work all night and not give family and friends their full attention. Whatever your process is, give yourself a set amount of time to talk or think through the issues of the day, then aim to focus on what’s in front of you. This is often easier said than done, but turning the focus outwards can help – ask about your friends and families days, do an activity together, listen to a podcast, watch tv, or read a book.
- Plan some ‘you’ time: Home life carries its own stressors – the kids may need you to help with homework, the washing needs doing, dinners need to be made. It’s important to take some time out from home, by yourself, and recharge. Doing something you enjoy, such as a team sport or an art class, can relax you and help you focus back on home (and work) with renewed energy. If you are in a relationship, it’s also important to have some time out together that doesn’t involve children or chores.
- Exercise: Alone, together, with your kids, or with a team. There’s no getting away from the fact that exercise should be one of your priorities to tackle stress. Aside from a range of physical and mental health benefits, exercise can distract you from focusing on work, as well as relieve mental chatter.
- Think about moving on: If you’re trying to relieve workplace stress, but it doesn’t abate, then you may want to think about finding another job. People move on for many reasons – you may feel the organisation is not the right cultural fit, the role may have run its course, or you may not have a supportive manager or colleagues. While you may not be able to resign without another job lined up, it can help just to start looking at other options and planning for the next step.