The indicators are all there, 9 out of 10 Australian employees believe workplace mental health to be important but only 5 out of 10 of us view our workplaces as mentally healthy. This means that, as a nation, we now recognise the impact stress at work and office burnout can have but don’t always know how to deal with work stress symptoms. 45% of Australians in the 16-85 bracket will experience a mental health condition at some point during their lifetime and work place stress can be a key contributor to this. With both full-time employment and monthly hours worked increasing across Australia, the potential is there for office burnout to become more prevalent. We look at some of the key ways you can reduce stress at work and avoid office burnout.
Work stress and office burnout
Stress at work can lead to office burnout but the two are not the same thing. A certain level of stress can bring out our optimum performance but, if this is sustained or exceeds our capacity to deal with it, can lead to a state in which we are emotionally and mentally exhausted and no longer able to meet our work, and sometimes personal, obligations. Workplace burnout can have a range of both physical and mental symptoms including, headaches, lack of sleep, irritation and feelings of being inadequate. No two people experience either burnout or stress in exactly the same way so it pays to learn to recognise symptoms when they start to occur and take action before they build.
The causes of office burnout
It can sometimes be easier to spot the first signs of work stress in your teammates than in yourself but learning to recognise stress indicators in other people will help you to become more aware of your own responses and understand when you need to take action to prevent stress at work becoming more serious and resulting in office burnout. Stress has many causes but can often be brought on by a single or combination of occurrences. In an office these might include,
- Sustained pressure that doesn’t allow for any mental ‘down time’
- A seemingly impossible number of tasks to complete
- Significant workplace change such as new working styles or directional changes
- Management decisions that appear to be incomprehensible or might be viewed as unfair
- The lack of opportunity for ‘quiet’ working
Tips for avoiding office burnout
Avoiding office burnout is best done at the earlier stages before you have lost the ability and motivation to take positive steps to deal with it. Or, better still; build stress-busting habits into your lifestyle to help you avoid a build up of debilitating symptoms. We have some top tips to help with both work stress and office burnout:
Learn how to effectively log off at the end of each day
As well as taking office breaks throughout the day, being able to relax once you leave the office gives your brain the opportunity to process what has happened, leaving you ready to tackle the next 24 hours and less susceptible to office burnout. Use a separate business and domestic phone, avoid checking work emails at home and spend some time each day away from internet access.
Set time aside for daily mindfulness
Mindfulness might sound like it is the last thing you have time for but you can practise clearing your mind and focusing fully on what you are doing at any time during the day. Walking to work, filing papers or even eating lunch all give you the opportunity to direct your mind and experience the related stress relief of the mindfulness habit.
Learn some simple meditation techniques
Effective meditation involves both your mind and your body but, as long as you can find a quiet corner, it is possible to meditate whilst you are at work. You need to make sure you are sitting comfortably with a straight upper body and be able to be still enough to focus on your breathing. It is also important not to get frustrated if your attention wanders away from your meditation, simply acknowledge what has happened then refocus.
Turn your work colleagues into work mates
The great thing about work colleagues is that they are often the only people who fully understand the type of pressure you are experiencing, they are also the most likely to be able to help with problems. In a busy office environment with few office breaks however; getting to know people properly can be tricky. Try to avoid eating lunch alone and make sure you join in with opportunities to socialise outside the workplace.
Get some exercise
We all know that exercise is good for us and those who spend time exercising either in the gym or outdoors often talk about feeling better and more able to deal with life’s ups and downs. One of the best ways to make sure you get enough exercise to help you deal with stress at work is to build it into your daily commute or office breaks.
Eat the right foods
Many people believe in brain foods and their ability to boost productivity. Eating the right foods can improve memory and concentration, help you to deal with emotions and lengthen your attention span. The other important thing to remember about brain foods is that eating a good variety of fresh food can improve your overall health and the way you feel about yourself.
Help other people
It has been suggested that altruism or acting in the interest of another person can actually promote happiness through physiological changes in the brain, brought on by the release of endorphins. Doing things for other people however goes further than this and can reduce work stress by increasing social interaction and helping us to keep things in perspective.
Organise and delegate
This might sound like even more work but the way you organise your workload can have a huge impact on the amount of stress you experience. At the end of each day make a plan of what you will tackle the next day and put tasks into priority order. If possible leave some contingency time for unexpected errands and make sure you select a few tasks to delegate to other people. Delegation can initially seem harder work than doing a job yourself but adequate instruction and training will pay off. Another good idea is to build in stress relieving internet breaks to reduce boredom.
Work place stress isn’t limited to those who work in an office but office burnout or workplace burnout can have a debilitating effect on both career minded individuals and the organisations for whom they work. The good news is, that by building a few key elements into your work lifestyle, you can deal with work stress and avoid office burnout.
We have plenty more career enhancing tips to help you improve your workplace productivity and overcoming potential obstacles, and would like to remind you that, by looking after yourself, you will also be looking after your career.