I want to talk about something that everyone experiences at work from time to time: stress. In certain situations stress can be good, but too much of it and it can feel overwhelming. When this happens, our happiness levels decrease, and so does our productivity. This can result in lost time for employers, and even lost days (according to the Office of National Statistics there were 440,000 cases of work-related stress, depression and anxiety in the UK in 2014).
It is the employers’ and employees’ responsibility to create a more relaxed working environment, and so here are my top tips for both:
Start your day in the right frame of mind
Always try and arrive at your desk feeling as relaxed as possible. Everyone is different, but things that can help include: getting at least seven hours’ sleep, carrying out a period of light exercise before work, enjoying a hearty breakfast (to aid concentration), and having enough time to get to work in a non-flustered state…
Plan your time
Once you get to work, break your tasks down into manageable chunks. This can help you to take things one step at a time, rather than looking at a huge to-do list and not knowing where to start.
Read your emails in intervals
Yes, email is one of the most common ways people communicate on a day to day basis, but a ‘ping’ every few minutes can be distracting. Allow yourself three intervals throughout the day to check and clear your inbox (first thing in the morning, after lunch and before you go home) so that you can properly focus on the task at hand.
Take regular breaks
We hear this one all the time, but how many of us can really say we take regular breaks at work? A quick coffee break can help refocus the mind, and don’t forget to make the most of your lunch – away from your desk! This is your free time so make the most of it; get to know your colleagues better, go for a walk, read a book etc.
Prepare for tomorrow, today
Switching off from work isn’t easy, which is why you should write a list of things you need to do before you leave the office. This gives you peace of mind that you’re organised for the next morning, and will help you better relax when you’re at home.
It’s so important to have a proper employee engagement process in place, not least because it helps you communicate with your staff better. Make yourself approachable (by having an open door policy, for example), and encourage your employees to let you know if they need any support with anything.
Sporting activities are also good to introduce into the office as they encourage staff to take a break and have a bit of fun! One of my clients has a ping pong table, foosball table and darts board to help their social atmosphere.
Consider flexible working
Some people are perfectly happy to sit at the same desk all day every day, but some people may find it stressful to be fixed in one position. Consider having break out areas, different rooms, or even standing desks where people can move freely between. A flexible working policy also allows people to work when, and where, suits them best (i.e. from home or a local cafe).
Take a look at your office
This is all about incorporating zen into your workplace. Simple things can make all the difference, such as decluttering the office, getting a few plants, putting inspirational quotes on the wall, and ensuring there’s enough natural daylight coming through (especially during those dreary winter days…)
Recognise and reward
This goes back to the first point about employee engagement. I always recommend having a rewards system in place so that your staff feel recognised and valued for the hard work that they’re putting in. Consider what your team might do to relax in their space time and introduce elements of this into their working day. This could include offering discounts on local restaurants and attractions or having a massage therapist come into your office once a week/month. At one company I used to work for, team members were treated to shoulder massages at their desks!