Stress is a word that probably most people use on a daily basis to describe a number of issues – ‘I can’t decide what car to buy’, ‘my flights have just been cancelled, ‘I don’t have enough hours in the day’, ‘I’m going to have to work all night to finish this work’, etc. But clearly, we will all have opinions on just how ‘stressful’ the above situations are. Likewise, everyone has a different capacity when dealing with stress and as a result the word itself is often used indiscriminately and not taken very seriously.
We are all guilty of overusing the word and in some cases it can become a competition – ‘who is the most stressed, who has the biggest workload and who copes the best’. This may just be perceived as workplace banter but for some employees the word stress will have a very different meaning.
According to studies, 1 in 6 people in the UK are suffering from depression, anxiety or stress, the cost to the UK for dealing with such conditions is £26 billion each year with an estimated loss of 70 million working days.
Despite these huge numbers, such conditions are often swept aside or ignored, often because employers are uncomfortable with dealing with them. Likewise, because of the overuse of the word stress, people often don’t take such complaints seriously. Ever heard or even used the phrase ‘oh stress is just the new back pain’?
Also consider if you have ever mentioned to a colleague or a friend that you are feeling stressed at work. Was their reaction ‘ok let’s talk about this’ or perhaps more likely they simply proceeded to tell you about ‘their stress’? Imagine for someone who is genuinely feeling overwhelmed, how this may affect them? It’s likely to make them feel worthless for not being able to cope and, more worryingly, to decide not to open up again.
Whilst stress can happen in any role in any workplace to anyone (it doesn’t discriminate) there is no doubt that sales environments can be highly stressful. With continual targets, competition, the need to be the best, continual improvements, changing markets etc. it’s not for the faint hearted.
And of course it’s important to remember that stress itself isn’t always a negative. For many people, the pressures provide a healthy level of stress that drives them forward. But for others, stress is far from positive.
HR Support Services for Small Businesses and How to Deal with Stress
It’s important we don’t assume that if people can’t deal with the stress of work, then they are just in the wrong job; after all stress can strike at any time, including after many previous successful years. This will often be due to other influences occurring in someone’s life, perhaps family or personal problems that just tips the balance and leaves them unable to cope where they may have previously thrived.
In these instances, employees can often feel embarrassed and they will try to cover up their issue and not discuss it with anyone, occasionally they may be successful in overcoming the problem on their own, but unfortunately this is often not the case.
If you have experienced such a bad experience of stress, either in the short or long term; then you will know that it can have terrible effects. It can result in loss of self-confidence, risks to your health, poor sleeping, relationship breakdowns and an inability to function effectively on a day to day basis. This is not the same as when you have a bad day, but rather a continual feeling of dread and worry that without help and treatment can lead to devastating outcomes.
So what can employees and employers do to avoid stress and manage it when it does occur?
- Firstly, it’s important for employers to train their managers effectively in people management skills. They need to be able to manage their employee’s workloads, ensure they are adequately trained and that goals are realistic and achievable. This doesn’t mean employees cannot be stretched but they must have the tools and means to achieve success; as there is no benefit to either party for an outcome to be failure.
- In addition to the above, employers must train managers to recognise the signs of stress and how best to manage it. Employees are often reluctant to seek help when stressed because they feel they will be treated differently or that their job will be at risk. Therefore, they must be reassured so that they can move forward. For some, this may be to consider workplace counselling, coaching and to review their workloads. Managers can then put in place changes to workload where required and support and training needed to help the employee back on track. Solutions don’t need to be expensive; often it’s a simple case of a manager providing hands on support.
HR support is equally essential to the success of managing stress. This will be to fully support managers and ensure appropriate policies are in place to deal with these issues. Likewise, where in some cases it isn’t possible for the employee to continue to work in their current role, HR can advise all parties of the options available to them.
For employees, it’s important that you look at how you are managing your time and if improvements can be made, take regular breaks and ask for support when needed.
Where things become of concern, you should talk to a trusted friend or colleague and confide in your manager or HR should things become too much. Of course for anyone that feels they are suffering from stress, depression or anxiety and they don’t feel able to talk to friends or colleagues; it is important that they speak to their GP, who can offer support and treatment options. It’s also important to remember you are not alone and help is available to help you manage this difficult time.