When Work is Only a Click Away: Managing Workplace Stress
Feeling stressed at work is almost inevitable in modern society, even if you’re living your dream job. Work can feel inescapable and that is because it often is. Advances in technology have led to an increase in working hours including evening, late night, and weekend work (Härmä, 2006). Prior to smartphones, many people would leave the office at 5 PM and go home to enjoy time away from work. This is simply no longer the case. It’s difficult for people to leave the physical work environment when it’s only a click away.
This increase in work hours has also led to changes within organizations. Many people feel compelled to respond to work-related messages even when they are away from the office due to the modern organization’s increasing expectations of employee availability (Davis, 2002). This is problematic for two reasons:
There are no boundaries between work and leisure time (Green, 2002).
People feel an increase in work pressure and an inability to keep their distance from work (Jarvenpaa & Lang, 2005).
According to Statistics Canada’s, over one-quarter of working adults say that their lives are very stressful with 62% of them identifying work as their main source of stress (Crompton, 2015). Working 24/7 wreaks havoc on our mind, body, and spirit, leading to negative physical, mental, and behavioural issues.
While you could try practicing yoga or meditation to reduce or relieve some of the stress of your job, we’ve compiled some specific strategies you can use to manage stress within your workplace environment (wherever that may be!).
Create a List of To-Dos
Within today’s workforce, many of us have had to adapt to become skilled multi-taskers, taking on multiple projects at once with competing deadlines and deliverables. Putting together a to-do list is one way you can feel like you’re managing your time and recognizing what is possible for you to do. Think about prioritizing your tasks as well to help keep you on track. As you finish specific deliverables, check them off! Celebrate their completion with a quiet moment to yourself, a beverage of choice, or a walk around the block. Those quick wins will help you feel refreshed to take on the next task.
Do you ever find yourself thinking at the end of the day, “Wow, I don’t even think I got up to pee today?” Remember that you are entitled to take breaks and you should, many times throughout the day. Short breaks could include washing your dishes, getting up to stretch, taking a walk, chatting with a co-worker, or taking a couple of minutes to meditate. And if you have to go to the bathroom, go! Short breaks help to energize your body and mind so that you can focus on the task ahead. It may also help you check off more items on your to-do list!
Change Your Perspective
It’s very easy to get wound up in the day-to-day minutiae of your job. You may find yourself feeling the pressure as a new email comes in, someone interrupts you with a question, or your boss emails you with a request that needs to dealt with in the next 30 minutes. If you feel yourself slipping into a downward spiral of negative self-talk, self-loathing, or panic – stop, take a deep breath, and change your perspective. What is the absolute worst that could happen if you fell slightly behind or couldn’t support your boss with their requested task? Will the outcome matter in 5 years, in 5 weeks, or even 5 days from now? After you think it through remind yourself that you will always have the next day to get more done, you can always delegate if you work with a team, and that all that really matters is your personal well-being.
Talk to Your Boss
Stress at work is often manifested when there is self-perceived difference between what is expected of us and what we can deliver. If you notice that your to-do list is multiple pages long with all items prioritized as urgent, then you need to review your workload. Meet with your boss to strategize around deliverables and timelines to see if there is any flexibility with making some modifications. Although it may not be feasible for you to eliminate or delegate the work, at the very least you’ve made your boss aware of your workload and have been proactive identifying potential issues. If you’re your own boss then it’s time to revisit that to-do list. Is EVERYTHING really that urgent? Review your list, strategize with a close friend, family member, or colleague, and move forward with a new plan of action.
You’ve probably heard it a million times – work, life, balance. This is easier said than done when work can follow us everywhere via our smartphones. However, it is important that you take time to disconnect, stay offline, and set boundaries. If you work during the week, try not to work on the weekend. If you must check email after hours choose a specific time each day and make sure colleagues are aware that you are unavailable at specific times. If you are taking a vacation, take it! If you can, leave your phone at home, keep it on silent or airplane mode, and most importantly, enjoy yourself!
Some days at work will be difficult. But it shouldn’t be difficult every day. We hope that these strategies will help you manage workplace stress so you can enjoy work, and most importantly, enjoy your life! Remember, “Of all the things that matter, that really and truly matter, working more efficiently and getting more done, is not one of them.” – Mike Dooley
Live life lighter,
Carolyn & Stephanie
Härmä, M. (2006). Workhours in relation to work stress, recovery and health. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health, 32, 502–514.
Davis, G. (2002). Anytime/anyplace computing and the future of knowledge work. Communications of the ACM, 45, 67–73.
Green, N. (2002). On the move: Technology, mobility, and the mediation of social time and space. The Information Society, 18, 281–292.
Jarvenpaa, S., & Lang, K. (2005). Managing the paradoxes of mobile technology. Information Systems Management Journal, 22, 7–23.
Crompton, S. (2015). What's stressing the stressed? Main sources of stress among workers. Retrieved from: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-008-x/2011002/article/11562-eng.htm