Monday, May 19, 2008

Personal Development: Managing Stress in Workplace

SO MUCH TO DO, SO LITTLE TIME

The scenario is familiar by now. Many companies have reduced their workforce over the years but expect those who remain to be most productive and efficient. In most cases. employees are required to plouge through twice as much as work in half the time and with half the resources. At the outset, employees may not mind the extra hours or taking on new or unfamiliar jobs. However when the extended hours become a daily occurrence and weekends are spent doing extra work to keep up with shorter deadlines and greater expectations, stress levels soon start to rise.

This is life in the 21st century, where stress is a badge of honour and work never seems to get complicated. Though stress in itself is not harmful, excessive and sustained high, stress levels can be damaging in the long run. Stress manifests itself in many forms and can have a positive or negative impact on people. Everyone, including me are exposed to stress, so how can we turn it around to our advantage?

Use stress positively

Most stress management experts that I have read of agree that the key to handling stress is not to eliminate it but to manage it and use it for positive results. Here are some ideas that I thought may be useful:

1) Simplify procedures and cut out layers in the project review process (if you are on a high management level). Streamlined procedures usually translate to higher productivity too.

2) Try to place a few dynamic people throughout your organisation (for higher management level). Identify workaholics and strategically position them where they are needed most, that is where the workload is heavy. Most importantly, give them the resources, authority and ability to network with other top achievers. They will help keep productivity up and energise the people around them.

3) Strive for the most effective communication across all levels. Encourage and advocate open, transparent communication across the organisation.

4) Create a schedule for your day than to let events of the day to rule you. Don't allow your day to get out of control by responding immediately to every incoming e-mail message. Instead, schedule three to four blocks of time for e-mail in between your work. You can also reduce your e-mail correspondences by using regular staff meetings to stay informed of projects, initiatives or the work your staff members are doing

5) Pace yourself. Assume long hours only if that is what quality, not politics, demands. Set priorities and eliminate a few routine, time-consuming tasks from your workload (Msn Messenger in work is one example. On the contrary, its a great communication tool with your clients)

6) Exercise and keep fit. Many people take time out before or after office hours or during lunchtime for a workout in the gym. In Japan, I remember reading a company that gives 1 hour sleeping time to their employees instead. Exercise has been proven to have positive impact in stimulating the body and the brain. Physical exercise is a perfect way to relieve stress while keeping fit

7) Schedule some normal time in your life. I remember in my past work experiences, I see people work till 10pm almost everyday (not in a bank). When fighting stress, go for activities that counteract your regular work or provide you with energy or relaxation. No smoking please. It keeps you unhealthy and does not gives you total time off.

8) Nurture creativity in your leisure hours. Perhaps you have always wanted to write a book, join a class, take up a new sport or learn to dance. When you say it, DO it. It will not only to help lower your stress levels but develop a new form of interest and skill.

Conclusion

Reducing stress is about having a balance in the 5 elements of your life. Lets do a checklist to see if you have it:

(a) Physical
(b) Spiritual
(c) Social
(d) Emotional
(e) Intellectual

Quick Exercise

Write down these 5 elements as headings on a blank piece of paper. Below every heading, write the activity and the amount of time you spend on each. This will quickly show you where imbalances occur and where you need to spend more time. It is possible to survive the high performance days of the 21st century. But like everything else in life, effectively managing your stress is the key.

Good luck!

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