Stress in the Workplace... wake up to it!
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Stress in the Workplace… wake up to it!

I couldn’t help but notice the change in Joe. The typically talkative and cheerful co-worker has become grumpy and dismissive over the last few weeks. This is how my conversation with an HR manager began. She was calling me to run a Wellbeing and Mental Health training for her staff and wanting me to answer the questions of “What should we be looking out for and how can we help?”

Joe was always the first to arrive at work, and among the last to leave. But then he started coming into work later and later, and was often in a rush to leave at the end of the day, too.  Eventually, after a few months, Joe handed in his notice and left.

Joe was suffering from stress, something that’s all too common in modern, high-demand workplaces. If this had been recognized and the people around him knew how to support him, he might have been able to get help and might still be with the company.

I want to help you learn how to identify stress in others, and explore a five-step strategy for tactfully offering your support, without becoming overburdened yourself.

How to Identify Stress in your Colleagues

Stress is what happens when the demands placed on someone exceed what he or she can readily cope with.

While a certain amount of pressure is a part of everyday life, and can actually help people to perform better, too much pressure can cause stress to build.

Even if your organization has a policy on mental health and an active HR manager or team, it’s most likely a friend or co-worker who’ll be the first person to notice a change in someone’s behavior that could indicate stress.

Signs of stress can include: 

  • Snapping at colleagues.
  • Losing concentration.
  • Putting off decisions.
  • Restlessness.
  • Emotional volatility.
  • Anxiety.
  • Erratic behavior.

Why Giving Support Matters

Even when you know that someone is suffering from stress, it can be difficult to broach the subject. You might be scared of causing offence, making it worse, or causing the other person to become angry or emotional. 

But offering your support can be a crucial first step in battling the often serious mental and physical problems caused by excessive stress, such as burnout, depression, sleeplessness, fatigue, and even heart disease (yes, you read that correctly!).

The problems caused by stress can also go beyond the individual who is suffering. It can begin to impact his or her performance at work, forcing others to “pick up the slack,” and relationships to break down.

Your support can help to the ease the impact of these “side effects” and to keep team relationships strong.

How to Support a Stressed Co-Worker

Here’s are 5 short, sharp and simple suggestions to help a colleague who is suffering from stress:

  1. Establish a Connection
  2. Find out if something else is going on 
  3. Suggest Practical Ways Forward (there’s heaps…feel free to contact me to discuss more)
  4. Offer Friendship
  5. Take care of yourself (I LOVE talking about Self-Care) 

Research shows that stress can have a “ripple effect” on the people that are close to the sufferer. Learning the skills to recognise the signs and symptoms and then take the next step towards helping people is paramount for any organisation.

By Amanda Lambros, Relationships, Mental Health, Grief and Loss Speaker and Counsellor, and Vice President MAREAA.

Tune in next week for more discussion about relationships and mental health.

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