Have you ever heard anyone say that working under stress gets the best out of people?

I have to admit that this thought sends shudders down my spine, we are thinking of putting everyone under stress so that they can achieve a little bit more. I am certainly a fan of achieving as much from ourselves and each other as possible, to be all that you can be and to keep our employees as productive and as inspired as possible, but stress? Is that really a tool to achieve that? I’m clearly going to say no, but before you switch of let me try a rationalize with a little bit of help from some of the leading authorities.

Firstly, what is stress? I know what it feels like and I think I know how I behave and perform when under stress, but, what did I miss to get me in that state?

Enter, Every Mind Matters, a superb NHS online support service for mental health

“Stress is something everyone feels at times, and there are all kinds of stressful situations that can be a part of daily life. Low-level stress can even be helpful or motivational.”


So, a little bit of stress is ok and motivational – I always used to coin a phrase from one of my colleagues who said that “pressure is motivational but stress is when the pressure is too much” so I guess we can align those two.

“too much stress can affect our mood, our body and our relationships – especially when it feels out of our control. It can make us feel anxious and irritable, and affect our self-esteem.

Experiencing a lot of stress over a long period of time can also lead to a feeling of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, often called burnout.”

This is where we end up have stress aware months every April because as a society whether at work, home or play we just are not any good at managing these levels of stress.

Another thing that makes stress management tricky is that it is different for everyone and also, our capacity to endure stress or as I prefer to try and maintain the time when pressure becomes stress differs for everyone and also differs for the same individual depending on other factors – No wonder stress is such a social disease, I can only hope I am not getting stressed thinking about all this!

Some of the common causes of stress and of course, this is not an exhaustive list

·       being under lots of pressure.

·       facing big changes.

·       worrying about something.

·       not having much or any control over the outcome of a situation.

·       having responsibilities that you’re finding overwhelming.

·       not having enough work, activities or change in your life.

·       times of uncertainty.

From an HR perspective, these are all related to work but obviously they do apply outside of the work space as well. This is where I would invite employers to take an interest in the private lives of its people. Not to invade their privacy but to understand what may be happening in their lives that may impact on the workplace. It is also important to let our people know that we do care and are interested.

The company culture is everything when we look at how we look after our people’s mental health but that said, there also needs to be a culture where people understand their role and responsibility in managing their own mental health including their stress levels.

That culture is promoted through communication and trust. Simple actions for an employer to promote an open and supportive workplace culture

·      Ask how are you, listen to the answer

·      Listen without judgement

·      Don’t feel you have to solve any of the issues, sometimes your time and ear is enough

·      It goes without saying, respect the confidentiality

·      Not every chat will need to be “deep and meaningful”

·      Take time to celebrate the successes

·      Bestow credit when earned

·      Steer away from the expectation to work longer hours

·      Promote an expectation to take a proper lunch break

What can employees do to manage their stress levels?

 ·      Work good honest hours and go home!

·      Take a lunch break away from your work station

·      Make sure you spend time doing things that you love

·      Spend time with people who you relax around

·      Find activities that make you switch of from those “tough things”

·      Sleep

·      Eat well

·      Exercise (but make sure it’s fun and not a chore!)

·      At work carry on with a to do list but always make sure you have a “Done List” as well to celebrate what you have achieved that day

·      Take every opportunity to laugh and be silly

·      Just stop and listen to the world go by and cherish your own stillness

Most importantly, celebrate your successes, notice your strengths and slow down

For more information or training then get in touch (contact details below) 

Tel: 07983 392 365

Email: admin@straighttalkinghr.co.uk