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It is often said that stress is a silent killer, taking its toll on our mental and physical wellbeing if not managed or alleviated in a healthy way. Workplace issues are widely reported as one of the most common contributors to stress. In fact, the United Nations has even gone so far as to suggest that occupational stress is a "global epidemic" affecting millions of employees around the world with corresponding social and economic costs.
Anxiety symptoms have been the highest ever on record in this country, influenced in part by rising workplace stress.
Here in Australia, the combined annual costs of work-related stress in terms of absenteeism, reduced productivity, employee turnover, mental health clinical bills and other social and economic expenditures are estimated at a staggering $10 billion, according to Safe Work Australia.
Beyond the monetary strains, workplace stress could be the culprit behind a wide range of other health conditions such as insomnia, anxiety attacks, back and neck injuries and a lower immune system. In fact, the latest 2015 'Stress and wellbeing in Australia survey' by the Australian Psychological Society (APS) found that anxiety symptoms have been the highest ever on record with 26 per cent of people feeling above average anxiety.
So, how can these negative factors be minimised in a healthy way? Here are some suggestions.
One practical solution to combating workplace stress is by using professional workplace support services, such as confidential counselling for employees or stress-relief advice seminars.
While professional issues such as deadlines or project management can be factors influencing stress at work, sometimes employees could be struggling with personal matters or family issues and could greatly benefit from a counselling service at work to feel better and capable of completing their tasks.
This is mutually beneficial for companies too, considering numerous employee engagement surveys and company culture research studies have come to the same conclusion: happy employees are more productive. One such example is SEEK Australia, which found 67 per cent of employees classified as happy were willing to "contribute above and beyond" to their required work tasks and were also 16 per cent more productive than disengaged workers.
Most employee engagement experts, including firms such as Gallup who specialise in this area of research, highlight that having a best friend at work or a trusting relationship with colleagues can be very valuable in managing workplace stress. A colleague is more likely to empathise with work pressures instead of just sympathise, but that's not to say spouses, family members and other loved ones can't be helpful.
Rather, APS surveys regularly indicate that spending time with friends and family is ranked among the top three most effective ways to relieve stress. In 2015, this solution won second-place for stress alleviation, so take time out to enjoy life with your loved ones to minimise stress in a healthy way.
Getting into the habit of balancing your personal and professional life can be the central pillar supporting your stress release journey. The 2014 Australian Work and Life Index surveyed 2,600 workers nationwide, finding that working unsocial hours (especially on Sunday) has a palpable consequence on workers' lives, overall job satisfaction and feelings of happiness.
If you find that taking these steps isn't quite working to release your workplace stress, or that the pressures are mounting very high, you could benefit from seeking professional help to better manage the stress before it could lead to more severe mental health conditions. There is a lot of support ready for you to make the most of, contact us to discuss how we could be of help to you during this stressful time in your life, you can call us on 1300 364 277.