Guest Blog By Janice Haddon, founder and MD of Morgan Redwood
Millions of UK workers book time off work during the summer months, whether that be to spend quality time with family and friends or to travel to far-flung destinations.
It is during this time we often hear people say they are ‘in need of a break’ or ‘need to recharge the batteries’, but is there any truth behind these expressions and does it really matter whether we take time away from the desk?
Studies in recent years indicate that some employees are too overwhelmed to take time off, believing that their workload will spiral out of control or they will be at risk of redundancy if they do not continue to put in long hours.
No matter what industry we happen to work in, we all experience stress in some form or other during our professional lives, especially in jobs suffering from increasing workloads and reductions in staff – a prevalent issue today. In such high-pressure environments, the effects of stress can have quite damaging effects on employees’ mental health if not monitored and treated properly.
A prolonged exposure to pressure, anxiety and stress in the workplace can leave workers feeling depleted, overwhelmed and unable to cope with the daily challenges of their job roles.
It is therefore essential that we keep a watchful eye on stress levels, by being mindful of potential triggers and recognising when we’ve exceeded our capacity to cope in the working environment.
People are affected by pressure and stress in different ways, but the signs and symptoms can be spotted if you know what to look for. These include headaches, anxiousness, sleeplessness, a loss of concentration, irritability, being short tempered, self-centred and exhibiting with poor communication.
In extreme cases, where exposure to stress is prolonged, people can spiral into negative patterns of behaviour and may even turn to alcohol or substance abuse as a coping mechanism.
To handle the continuous pressure, it is important to work on building up an inner resilience. This is indispensable for those handling a busy working environment and a never ending ’to-do list’.
Employees in high demanding jobs should also pay attention to their work-life balance and take a 360 approach to health; with exercise, a healthy diet, connection with others and techniques for relaxation all taking their place in boosting mental wellbeing.
Unfortunately, in organisations where employees are subject to high pressures and increasing demands, a culture of stress, negativity and ill health can quickly develop. Ensuring that people flourish in these environments is difficult, but not impossible.
Indeed, taking a break from the job helps, but it is not a long-term solution in a stress fuelled workplace. Businesses should take it upon themselves to protect employees from falling into a negative spiral – and having the right policies in place with good communication is key.
Companies should temper expectations when needed and celebrate successes. By encouraging conversation and open discussion, rather than focusing purely on getting things done to tight timescales, businesses are more likely to promote innovation and creativity, whilst yielding better results.
People operate at their best when they are respected, satisfied and motivated to succeed. If the environment is poorly managed, and people are not producing, a change is needed.
Obviously, taking a break from any job is greatly beneficial. Taking care of your mental health is fundamental in being able to perform efficiently in any given job role, but it is also important for businesses to recognise the need to protect employees from the detrimental effects of pressure and stress.
If employees pay attention to the warning signs of stress and are supported by companies that work to manage and control stressful environments, with the right culture that supports and provides open communication with staff, cases of people being taken ill due to pressurised conditions at work will naturally lower.
We should all be able to enjoy a well-deserved break from work around this time of year, but for the right reasons. Ultimately, safeguarding your mental health will ensure you’re just as happy returning to work as you were leaving.