February 23, 2016

How to avoid workplace stress

It is very common for HR professionals to spend so much time looking after the needs of the organisation, the needs of individuals and the needs of teams that they forget to look after their own needs. Yet, HR can be a very stressful profession, particularly when organisations are going through a major period of change or retrenchment. There are so many demands on an HR professional’s time and resources and emotionally, the work can be very draining.

It is important that HR professionals take the time and make the effort to keep stressful levels to manageable levels, otherwise they run the risk of suffering burnout. Burnout is a state of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion and it is caused by chronic, prolonged stress. In the early days of burnout, people typically feel overwhelmed, very tired and begin to lose motivation and clarity. When it continues, sufferers can actually crash, unable to function properly on either a work or personal level.

In today’s fast paced environment, it is very easy for burnout to become a reality. That’s why it is so important that HR knows the signs of burnout, both in terms of helping others and helping themselves. Here are some signs that HR needs to watch out for:

– decreased motivation
– decreased attention span and productivity
– no energy, feeling overwhelmed and unable to function as effectively as before
– negative attitude
– an inability to make decisions
– a rise in health issues, particularly stress-related illnesses

HR professionals need to be mindful of these signs to ensure they and others don’t become victims of burnout. Here are our top tips to help keep stress at bay and prevent burnout.

1. Keep a healthy perspective. Work is important, your job is important and it is good to care about your performance. However, keep it in perspective. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you and only you alone can get the job done – there will be others that are just as competent.
2. Set boundaries. Keep clear boundaries between work and play so that you properly switch off from work.
3. Have coping mechanisms. If your job is stressful and that stress can be overwhelming, recognise it and think of ways to mitigate. Mindfulness is an increasingly popular way of managing stress and can be done at home or at work, for example.
4. Eat well and sleep well. Getting enough sleep does wonders for stress levels, but too many people scrimp on sleep when workloads are heavy. It’s not worth it. Eating the right foods also helps to regulate emotions and keep energy levels topped up.
5. Delegate. Don’t be a hero. If there are people around who can help – and there always are – then delegate. Don’t struggle on being a hero or martyr.
6. Take breaks. Taking time out during the day can be hard, but you will reap the rewards. Taking a proper lunch break is important, but also taking ten minutes here and there to stretch your legs, move around and refresh your mind recharges your batteries wonderfully.
7. Prioritise. Feelings of stress can be greatly reduced by knowing you are on top of your work. Prioritise the most important tasks and tackle them.
8. Have a hobby. Having a hobby that is nothing to do with your job is good for the body and soul, enabling you to switch off from work and connect with other things that are important to you.
9. Talk. If work is getting to you, ask for help, whether it’s a colleague you turn to, a friend or family member. And don’t forget workplace resources – occupational departments are there to help.
10. Look at your workload. If you can, cut unnecessary commitments in short and long term. It’s amazing how quickly workloads can be reduced by establishing what is really necessary and what isn’t.