Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Workplace stress – How to manage your stress levels in a pressured job.

There’s no denying that people are feeling much more pressure in the workplace than ever have before. Headcount reductions mean that businesses often need to achieve more with fewer staff and this can increase the stress placed on workers.

A 2013 study in America  found that more than one-third of working Americans reported experiencing chronic work stress and more than double that number believed their employer provided inadequate support for employees to help them manage stress in the workplace. There is evidence to suggest that the figures would be similar in this country too.

This month is stress awareness month, so we’ve pulled together some tips, advice and guidance to help you manage your stress while in the workplace – or to manage your return to work after a period of stress-related illness.

When it comes to feeling stressed at work – try these three simple tips to help you regain control of your emotions, become more centered and think rationally, so that your stresses don’t get the better of you.

Don’t react – act!

When we’re under undue stress we start to make emotional decisions, rather than rational ones. If you feel that this could be an issue for you, make a conscious decision not to react to and be influenced by the stressors around you. Write things down so it’s easier to explore things rationally and definitely don’t make any rash decisions when backed into a corner. Buy some time, and move to step 2…


If you feel things are getting on top of you, don’t be afraid to take stock – and breathe! It takes only a minute or two of deep, mindful thinking to bring a clarity to your thoughts and a calmer response mechanism. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.

Switch off once in a while

There are so many different pulls on our time during the working day, that it takes a strong person not to feel overwhelmed. We never switch off – emails, mobile phones, multiple screens – they even follow us home. Make a conscious effort to have an hour at work each day when you are able to concentrate wholly on the tasks in hand, without the interruptions. Feeling like you’ve accomplished something during your working day is a great way of reducing stress.

Returning to work

Going back to a stressful work environment can be daunting for anyone – whether you’ve been off for a few weeks annual leave or a little longer, due to illness.

The health and safety executive are a great source of advice for people looking to return to work after a long period of absence and there is lots of support that employees can request to make their transition back to work as stress-free as possible. We’ve also pulled together some tips designed to help:

Set boundaries

The lines between work and home can easily get blurred. When you return to work it’s important that you are clear about the need to switch off. Make a deal with yourself not to check email in the evening – if that’s not as easy as it sounds, leave your phone in the car overnight or switch it off as soon as the working day is over.

Relax and recharge

Build time into each day that is just for you. Take up a new hobby, spend time doing something you enjoy, switch off completely. The more you have to look forward to outside of work, the less likely you are to spend time disecting what you’re going through at work and thus, the less stress you’ll feel under.

Share the load

Talking to people really does help you keep your workplace stresses in perspective. Very often stress is borne from a tendency to overthink scenarios and situations – we go over and over things in our minds only for them to start to feel insurmountable. By talking about what we’re experiencing and the challenges we’re facing – whether it’s to colleagues, management or even your friends and family – what we’re essentially doing is keeping things in perspective so that it’s easier for us to manage.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The psychology of meetings – are you getting the most out of yours?

According to psychology today, up to three-quarters or more of a senior manager’s day may be taken up with meetings. There’s no denying that meetings are an integral part of many workplaces, the question is how we approach these meetings and make them a positive, productive element of our working day – rather than a waste of time and effort?

The above link gives some useful insight into the psychology of meetings and we’ve developed some simple tips to make sure you give your best in meetings to get the most out of them.

Mind over matter

Mindfulness is about training the mind to think about things differently. We are all creatures of habit and our working day is defined by a range of routines, tasks and practices. It doesn’t take much for these routines to change and this can leave us feeling unbalanced. If you feel the meetings you are asked to attend are mainly unproductive, take the initiative to ensure you’re at your best and present. Some simple mindfulness tips for meetings include writing with your non-dominant hand, sitting in a different seat than usual, or offering to chair the meeting / take the minutes, rather than be a passive participant.

Prepare to plan

Chairing or attending meetings on the hoof is a sure fire way to waste your time – and everyone else’s! If you know you have a meeting coming up, make it your business to plan well ahead and have a clear objective – what do you want to get out of the meeting? When are your expectations of others? If you have called the meeting, take the time to also plan what you want others to get out of it and the role you want them to play. How will you encourage collaboration and interaction? How will you work with others to set measureable goals? What processes can you put in place to make sure all actions are followed up on?

Essential etiquette

Do you know what a good meeting looks like? Before you begin, make sure you have an idea of how you want things to go from a logistics perspective. Try some visualisation techniques – imagine that the meeting goes well – how do people look around the table? How do you feel? There’s a good round-up in this helpful Business Insider article. It also helps to go through the ground rules of your meeting with participants before you begin, so people know exactly what is expected of them.

For more information about how to get the most out of your meetings, this article in Psychology Today looks at a special tool designed to improve the quality of meetings and increasing active participation. They identified two interesting patterns evident in the most productive meetings:

  1. People take turns in an equal way and everyone is encouraged to give their ideas.
  2. Periods of chattiness and side conversations serve to validate the ideas and build consensus. 

So, there you have it. With a bit of time and planning, you can make all your meetings matter.