Heading towards burn-out? Bring things back into balance with these expert tips
A bit of pressure is part and parcel of work life...
It can even be a good motivator for achieve goals. But living with constant strain of an excessive workload, unrealistic deadlines and high expectations can be extremely detrimental to your mental and physical well-being.
More than 12.5 million working days are lost each year to work-related stress, depression or anxiety, so it’s a real problem – and important that everybody, employees and employer alike, acknowledges it and takes necessary steps to help manage it.
Knowing where to start, however, can be difficult, especially when you’re already overwhelmed, but small changes can make a big difference.
Here, Liz Walker, HR director at Unum in the UK, outlines eight simple steps to help your work-related well-being year-round.
1. Be 'smart'
“If you’re feeling a little down at work, set yourself some goals to boost motivation. They need to be realistic to achieve,” says Walker.
She suggests using the ‘SMART’ acronym, which stands for: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-specific. So rather than just vaguely vowing to be better at managing your time, set out a named task, that’s not impossible to complete, with a realistic deadline. Perhaps there’s a project you’d love to see completed by the end of the week? Or your goal might be something as simple as finally decluttering your workspace.
“It’s much more motivating if you start with things you can achieve easily, so you can build up your wins and momentum from there,” says Walker.
2. Take time out
Saving all your holiday up for a long getaway might be a nice thought, but it’s probably not benefiting you in the long-run. Walker suggests that by giving yourself more three-day weekends throughout the year, particularly after a more stressful period at work – you are less at risk of wearing yourself too thin.
Taking time away from your desk is an important step towards staying present and engaged with those around you, whether that’s picking up the kids from school or completing a DIY project you’ve been putting off for months.
By using your annual leave to make the occasional day off a more frequent part of your working routine, you’ll benefit from a fresh perspective and feel better-equipped to handle the pressure.
3. Maximise your work perks
“Lots of people use the earlier months as a chance to do a little ‘spring cleaning’, which should also include reviewing your current work offerings,” Walker says.
By fully assessing what benefits are on offer from your employer, you can ensure you’re getting the most out of your job. You don’t have to be sat at your desk to increase job satisfaction; make use of discount vouchers for weekend trips and evening meals, take some classes at the work gym or sign yourself up for a training course to learn a new skill.
4. Let there be light
There’s a lot to be said for the power of light and the positive impact it can have on our working day.
“Natural light helps stabilise serotonin and triggers endorphins, both mood-boosting hormones, leaving you calmer and happier,” says Walker. Resist the temptation to snack at your desk by using your lunch break to get out of the office, even if it’s just for a short walk around the block, to refresh and relax.
And while it may be tempting to bury your head under the covers by the weekend, try to also utilise your free time to enjoy the outdoors.
5. Ask about employee recognition schemes
“Ask your employer if they might consider introducing an employee recognition scheme to highlight great work done by your teams,” suggests Walker.
“Whether the recognition is made publicly or privately, it will boost morale and create a more positive work environment”. Walker points out that it can also do wonders for boosting relationships between colleagues, and help create a much happier workplace culture.
Feeling valued can be extremely rewarding, and even help alleviate a certain amount of stress.