The most commonly reported reason for stress at work is workload. Many of us are being asked to do too much and taking on too much. We may not even be asked if we are okay with our current workload before more is expected of us. Sometimes it is not physically possible to complete what is asked of us inside working hours. This results in many of us staying late at work, working without breaks, taking work home, missing out on family time, cancelling our social/leisure plans. We may get the work done but we aren’t winning. We are losing. We are losing out on our own time. We are stressed. We are overworked and many of us are under appreciated for putting in the extra mile.
This article aims to highlight that it is not okay to be highly stressed out because of our workload. We shouldn’t be accepting this as part of our working life. It’s not okay that we work extra hours and sacrifice our social/home life. We don’t have to be a workaholic to be good at our jobs and committed to our work.
If you are stressed and getting to the point that you are not sure how much longer you can cope, LISTEN TO YOURSELF. STOP. Your mind and body are trying to tell you that they are close to not being able to cope. Everyone has a breaking point, even you.
Normal Stress and Harmful Stress
Some level of stress is normal in the workplace and normal in our lives. We are designed to live with stress and can cope extremely well. Up to a certain level we even perform better under stress. UP TO A CERTAIN LEVEL is a key phrase. Once our stress levels get too high our performance deteriorates, we begin to feel overwhelmed, our concentration decreases, our productivity reduces and if we are stressed for long periods of time our health can be impaired. We may feel unable to go to work and call in sick for days or longer. We may feel extremely emotional and our sleep, eating and hygiene may be affected.
Facts about stress at work
According to the Health and Safety Executive (hse.gov.uk)
- 526,000 workers in the U.K are suffering a work-related stress, anxiety or depression (new and long-standing) from a survey in 2016/17.
- 12.5 million working days were lost to work-related stress, anxiety and depression in 2016/17.
- In a survey into the causes of work-related stress, anxiety and depression workload was reported 44%, lack of support 14%, violence, threats or bullying 13%, changes at work 8% and other 21% (2009/10 – 2011/12).
These are just the reported figures. We all know that many of us suffering from stress are suffering in silence. Many of us are putting on a happy face at work but inside we feel stressed and overwhelmed. Many of us see our colleagues coping with their workload and feel pressured to cope too. But what if our colleagues are feeling highly stressed and also putting on a front. We can’t know for sure what our colleagues and mangers are going through because we can’t mind read. We can only know how we are doing and we need to be honest with ourself.
Top tip to reduce your workload
Be assertive and say “no”
An effective way to reduce your workload is to stop trying to do it all. You have to start saying “no” to work that you are unable to complete within your working hours with breaks. You may need to say no to colleagues who are putting their work onto you, you may need to arrange a meeting with your manager to discuss your workload and identify solutions. In the unfortunate event that you are not supported by your manager, you may need to take your concerns to a more senior manager or to your HR department. Your employer has an obligation to the safety of your health which includes both your physical and mental health. You do not need to accept high levels of stress as just part of the job. It is not okay and your employer is breaking the law if they do not care for your physical and mental health relating to work.
Legal duties for Employers in the U.K taken from (www.cipd.co.uk)
- to identify significant and foreseeable risks to employee health
- to prevent harm to employee health that is foreseeable and caused by work
- to consider any physical or mental impairment that has a substantial or long-term effect on their ability to work
- to consult with employees on health and safety matters.
You do not need to accept work-related stress as part of your job. Stop and reflect. Are you highly stressed? Are you feeling overwhelmed by your workload?
With thanks to Kevin for this week’s feature image.