How to deal with work stress
You've followed your dream of setting up your own business, but now the stress of getting home to your family or winning that big client is keeping you up at night.
We spoke to Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at Mind, the mental health charity, to find out what you can do to make the ups and downs a bit easier.
Signs of stress at work
It can be easy to miss the warning signs of workplace stress – especially when you're in business mode. That's why it's so important to give yourself a mental health check-up every now and then. And as Emma notes, there are plenty of work stress symptoms that you might be missing. "Stress affects us all in different ways," she says.
"Feeling irritated, drinking or smoking excessively, finding it hard to sleep or struggling to concentrate. You may feel really upset and emotional, or feel like crying." If you spot any of these symptoms, it might be a sign that the pressure might be affecting you.
Keep an eye out for physical signs, too. If you or your people are suffering from headaches, an upset stomach or difficulty breathing, it might be time to think about your mental health a little more.
The price of workplace wellbeing
It's not just mental health that can benefit from workplace wellbeing. It can make your business healthier, too. The 2017 Government-commissioned independent review 'Thriving at Work' found poor mental health costs the UK economy up to £99bn every year, with up to £42bn as a direct cost to employers.
Steps you can take to make things better
Your to-do list might be as long as your arm, but you need to make time for yourself. This is your health we're talking about. It's probably the best business investment you can make.
From time management skills to adjusting your relationship with work, there are plenty of small steps you can take to help alleviate the causes of workplace stress, as Emma explains:
- Avoid working long hours: "It might help get urgent work done in the short term, but consistently working long hours can leave you frazzled and reduce productivity. It could even lead to you becoming unwell/needing time off."
- Take proper breaks: "You should take your lunch break and other regular breaks, making sure to get some fresh air if possible. Don't check your emails, don't take any calls that aren't absolutely necessary and absorb yourself in a podcast or a book and relax."
- Leave work at work: "We all need lives outside of work so do try to leave work at work. Take time at the end of your working day to reflect on everything you have achieved, rather than worrying about what you have left to do or what you may have slipped up on. You don't have to be perfect all the time so don't be too hard on yourself if you don't get everything right."
- Build a support network: "Starting a new business can be isolating, so having a good support group is important. Consider signing up to a mentoring scheme so you can talk to someone away from work who has faced similar challenges."
"You don't have to be perfect all the time, so don't be too hard on yourself if you don't get everything right" Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing, Mind
The delegation dilemma
Your business is your baby – we get that. But you can't be an expert in everything. Surround yourself with people you trust, then let go. "It's important to delegate tasks to your employees so that you're not putting yourself under too much unnecessary pressure," Emma advises.
And don't juggle too much, either. Dipping into lots of things at once and not finishing them will lead to disappointment. If you take on tasks one at a time, you're more likely to feel accomplished when you tick one of your list.
Happy workforce, happy you
It may surprise you that much of your time is spent managing people, rather than managing your business. The juggle of work, health and family commitments can put a strain on us all. And as the boss it's up to you to give your people the support they need.
It's important that you keep an eye on your people to spot signs of work stress – even if they're small. Emma explains: "you may spot that someone is finding it hard to make decisions, appearing to be restless or worrying about things more than usual."
Giving your team the information they need to help them spot colleagues under pressure can really help, too. As Emma suggests, everyone experiences stress differently. "Symptoms of stress and mental health problems can vary considerably from person to person," she says. "That's why it's important for managers to draw up a wellness action plan with their staff so they have a better opportunity to spot if someone is struggling and offer support."
You can download a wellness action plan on the Mind website.
It's important to remember that stress and anxiety can affect us all. Most of us have experienced it at some point in our life. Help is out there. And you shouldn't be afraid to ask for it.
If you're struggling with unmanageable work stress or poor mental health, and the feelings last longer than two weeks or keep returning, your GP can talk you through the support that's available. It can be daunting, but Mind has produced a guide on how to speak to your GP about mental health.
Don't be put off by the prospect of a long wait time, either. Emma has plenty of suggestions to help in the meantime: "if you're concerned that you may need support before your treatment starts, you might want to try keeping a mood diary, taking some exercise, or joining a peer support group."
If you need more help dealing with stress at work, Mind also has a confidential information and support line, Mind Infoline. The team provides information on a range of topics including types of mental health problems, medication, alternative treatments and advocacy.
They can also look for details of help and support in your own area. They're available on 0300 123 3393 – their lines are open 9am - 6pm, Monday - Friday.
See more of our tips for business owners on our blog.