Many people thrive when operating under pressure, it gives them energy and drive.
The problem occurs when the dial on the pressure gauge goes into the metaphorical red-zone of stress. Not only do we all react differently to external and internal imposed stimuli but we may, individually, react differently depending on the context of life at any given time. This means it isn’t possible to know how we will respond to a situation, a timescale or other factors.
A recent survey by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found 37% of absence cases were due to stress and this accounted for 45% of working days lost for ill health. This means that, perhaps not surprisingly, the average time off for stress related issues is longer than for physical ailments.
The Institute of Directors surveyed 1200 UK employees and established the most stressful factors are:
- Bad management
- Low morale
- Unfriendly colleagues
- Long working hours
- Poor work/life balance
Clearly, some of these are interrelated and compounding. Larger organisations may have in-house or on-tap support but SMEs typically don’t even have a policy to help. The absence of a key employee, who may well have been imposed upon, due to their value to the business, can be very impactful.
The HSE website has very helpful information about stress for line managers.
For individuals, there are key messages here. Most importantly, prevention is better than cure. Do not wait too long to raise any concerns over growing pressure, talk to someone and ask for help. This is not a sign of weakness but, if considered properly, is a sign of strength.
Two final thoughts:
- People sometimes feel frustrated and in need of a new job when, in reality, the need is to change the factors creating the stress. People leave a job they love because they hate their boss or the department is under-resourced. Be careful not to address the symptoms rather than the cause of the problem.
- It is easier to find a new job when you are in a job