The Your Stress at Work Survey has been completed and it has some interesting insights I wanted to share with you.
It seems that stress has reached epidemic proportions, and the impact on individuals at work has been significant. The main themes are given below. So, grab a coffee (or chamomile tea) and read on.
Number of people suffering from stress at work
98% of people who took the survey (over 200) suffered stress much or all of the time. This is certainly reflected in my coaching practice. Whatever the presenting issue, most people also feel a high level of stress too. However, the actual figure was much higher than expected.
Most common signs of stress at work
The biggest signs of stress the participants reported were as follows:
- Worrying more
- Difficulty concentrating
- Too-muching behaviour (ie comfort eating, drinking, gambling, etc)
These all impact organisational performance because it impacts individual performance and teamwork, not to mention the sense of wellbeing (mental and physical) and the effect it will have on a person and their home life.
Main stressors at work
The survey revealed many stressors, with the most common being:
- Volume of work
- Being taken for granted
- Being let down by others
- Unreasonable deadlines
This clearly speaks to the need for positive leadership. Stress can be catching so a stressed leader will impact the stress levels of those reporting to him/her. Teamwork seems to be implicated too which again requires good leadership. In addition, effective hiring, training, communication and delegation will make a huge difference. These require time and investment but there is a very simple step which can be taken now with no cost but a positive impact. I certainly notice that leaders I coach get a really good response when they take time to offer sincere praise for a job well-done or for putting in the extra hours. The lift in morale can be enormous, especially when accompanied by actions to resolve challenges.
Why is this not done as a matter of course? Either poor leadership, or leaders who are fighting too many fires to remember that the niceties of their role can actually ease the way.
On an individual level, these issues can also be a function of the person’s ability to set boundaries, expectations, manage time and the likelihood that they personalise these challenges in a way which undermines them. Other negative thinking patterns can have a huge impact too: black and white thinking, catastrophising, jumping to conclusions (I like to call this mind-reading), etc.
In my experience with clients, it is often a blend of leadership and how an individual responds which is causing the stress rather than one or the other. But, if an individual is coming to me for themselves, we work on them, if it is a company, we work more on both in order to get the very best results.
The most dangerous stress management technique used
Everybody manages their stress in different ways, but the survey revealed that a staggering 82% of people used the most dangerous way of managing stress: powering through. That may seem like a sensible thing to do when the pressure is on but actually it isn’t. Because, in an environment which is fast-moving, high-pressured and under-resourced (many businesses experience these dynamics) it can lead to burnout or breakdown. This can take a year to recover from. That’s one year of being off work if you are an employee, and a year without a committed member of staff if you are the employer. Usually it’s your best, most committed performers who are most at risk. The knock-on effect is huge. Powering through can mean you miss all the danger signs.
Also, powering through doesn’t guarantee good work. It can lead to expensive mistakes, a deterioration in teamwork and a decline in customer satisfaction. Not to mention a very likely hit on your bottom line.
So, expecting people to power through is a short-term strategy with significant and dire long-term consequences: individually and organisationally.
Most common positive stress management technique
It’s not all bad news: 85% of people use prioritisation to help them with stress. This is hugely positive. But only if:
a) it is done well, and
b) there are no residual feelings of guilt and/or there is no negative impact on self-esteem.
These simply cause a different kind of stress.
It would seem also that prioritisation is not sufficient to compensate for the levels of stress as, though most people do use prioritisation, more still experience high levels of stress.
Number of people not coping with stress at work
33% of respondents felt they weren’t coping at all with their levels of stress. I am seeing this more and more. It isn’t because of the lack of effort but because of the relentless push for results with fewer resources. And because managers are stressed too, the quality of leadership and communication is impacted.
How to manage stress at work
As already mentioned, stress can be catching and, if there is one thing that can make a difference to performance,. productivity, job satisfaction, teamwork and profits, it’s to manage stress from an individual, leadership, team and organisational level.
The most enlightened employers taken proactive action – it’s so much easier than to wait until it escalates. Remember too that it is a legal obligation. Not only do I see people referred by businesses but also people who want to work privately – there still seems to be an unfortunate level of shame and fear around this subject.
You will find out more about how we help people become stress resilient here. They include:
- Stress and wellness audits
- Stress and wellness training
- Stress and wellness coaching
- Time out personal retreat (working 1:1)
Better still, call us on 0345 130 0854 to find out how we can help you with your stress at work (and your private life for that matter) – whether for yourself, a member of your team, or your organisation – the personal touch is always better.
© Tricia Woolfrey