Dealing With On-the-Job Stress in a Down Economy: How to Handle Pressures at Work While Others are Laid Off
A recent study of 300 married, working couples conducted at Florida State University’s College of Business found that over 70 percent of participants confirmed there was a significant increase in the level of stress in employees over the last few months. There’s no surprise in this finding or the fact that approximately 65 percent of participants predicted significant job changes in the next year and 80 percent are nervous about their own financial future.
While many of those who have lost their jobs are feeling the stress of the unemployed, many more workers who remain behind not only have to cope with survivor’s guilt – guilt felt after surviving a traumatic event – they have to deal with an increase in workload, less down time and the pressure to perform, sometimes beyond their own level of expertise or knowledge.
The Number One Hurdle to Overcoming Stress
Whether people know it or not, there is always a certain level of stress in their daily lives. It can come from a number of sources including work and it can be a reaction to either positive or negative change. The problems arise when the stress is ignored. That’s why the biggest hurdle for employees to overcome is acknowledging that their stress has gotten to a level that requires their attention.
Because of the down economy, people are feeling a lot of pressure at work as well as at home. Ignoring stress will not make it go away and can, in fact, lead to long-term health problems such as high blood pressure and heart disease, which require professional help. Plus, other symptoms such as a loss of interest in work and/or personal life can cause a downward spiral into clinical depression.
The best way to handle stress is to first acknowledge that it is a part of everyday life. Then look for the source of the added stress whether it is feeling overworked and under-appreciated or the fear of being laid off. Once someone knows the source of their stress it is then just a matter of taking action to eliminate or at the very least to minimize that source.
Overcome the Feeling of Stress at Work
Naturally, just understanding where the stress is coming from won’t necessarily make it go away. So it is important to take other steps to help bring back balance.
While eating properly, getting plenty of rest, and having a support group are all very important whenever anyone feels stress in their life (and even when they don’t), dealing with the pressure of working in a lean-and-mean work environment requires more.
First and foremost, eliminate stressors wherever possible. Right now the workload may be increasing as coworkers are laid off. However, those who remain behind can help themselves by taking more work breaks (stand up and stretch every hour), pitching in to assist each other with work assignments, and organizing and prioritizing their own work flow so it is easier to manage.
Next, if the fear of being laid off lingers overhead, employees need to consider how they can improve their chances of not being caught up in the next sweep. That means ensuring they have the skills their employers want. This isn’t just about technical knowledge; it includes things such as relationship building and creativity, too.
Finally, if possible, talk to someone in order to vent. Most people find that being able to express their feelings helps relieve some of the stress. Or employees who have the right kind of relationship may want to talk to their boss. He might not be able to say anything about what is ahead, but he might be able to give insight into what employees will need to do to stay onboard.
Stop Stress Before it Starts
While few people have absolute control over everything that happens in their lives, they do have control over their reaction, especially to stress.
One of the best ways to deal with stress in a down economy is for employees to take a deep breath when they feel overwhelmed. Don’t automatically assume the worst when called into the boss’s office. Don’t make quick decisions based on emotional, especially negative, reactions. And always have a contingency plan. That may mean savings in the bank, a second income (i.e. spouse, e-Bay, writing) or a well-formed network of contacts that can help land a new job if needed.
It is all about taking the time to acknowledge and handle stress when it appears. And to everyone feeling the pressure of working (or not) and living in a down economy, knowing that it won’t be this way forever may help