Dealing With Workplace Stress

Dealing With Workplace Stress

Knowledge workers often think they don’t face health and safety issues, says one expert, but when you make your living with your brain, you have to take care of it. Unmanaged stress can lead to physical and mental malaise, decreased productivity and worse. Occupational health professionals detail how to stay your happiest and healthiest

“If you’re unhappy, you can always start looking around for another job,” said Kelloway.

Upgrading your skills and learn new technologies will give you marketable skills and confidence, Kelloway said. “Then, even if the worst happens, you’re ready for it.” And if you stay at your job, you’ll probably be more knowledgeable and invested, and thus — hopefully — happier where you are.

Workflow is another culprit when it comes to control over your workday. That’s why it’s important to take “mini-breaks,” said Kelloway. “For a lot of IT people, it’s a lot of project work. There’s intense bursts of activity followed by a more mellow period. One of the big problems is that workers don’t recognize the need for some slack — people need downtime. They can’t just keep going and going.” By scheduling in time to work on long-term projects or catch up on some busywork, employees will feel less stressed.

From the employer side, companies must consider what they should take control over, and what they should let go. Finding that balance can make the difference when it comes to employee morale, said Estelle Morrison, director of health management with the human resources, employee assistance and payroll company Ceridian Canada Ltd. “This could mean something as small as limiting personal effects in the workspace,” she said.

Let's get physical

Did you know that working in IT can be hazardous to your health? “The physical demands of an IT job can take a significant toll on the body, whether it’s lighting, heating, chairs, ergonomic workstations or equipment,” Spinks said.

Kelloway added, “IT people are often put back in the server room or other areas where there are few windows. People can often become very disturbed by all-fluorescent lighting and recycled air.”

This is all exacerbated by the current tendency to try and cram as many people as possible in a smaller space to save on rent, and cubicles are just as popular as ever, in spite of their isolating properties, according to Morrison. “A downside is that people can feel both cramped and removed from everybody in their own little hovel,” she said.

She said that companies should try to provide opportunities for augmenting your workspace for optimal productivity — an example might be sound restriction, whether it be moving the cubicles around or soundproofing their structures. Financial software vendor Intuit Canada, which uses a more open layout, provides its employees with high-quality headphones that block out distracting noise.

Being as accommodating as possible when it comes to equipment is another way to keep employees happy, said Morrison. To save workers from strain, proper ergonomic workstations should be made available, and the option of requesting non-standard chairs and peripherals that will allow workers to more comfortably and safely do their job.

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