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Five top tips to navigate workload pressures

7th Apr 17 8:33 am

It’s stress awareness month

The UK Government’s Health & Safety Executive (HSE) define work-related stress, depression or anxiety as a harmful reaction people have to undue pressures and demands placed on them at work. And their statistics into work related stress, anxiety and depression should make every leader sit up and take note.

The latest estimates from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) show:

  • The total number of cases of work related stress, depression or anxiety in 2015/16 was 488,000 cases, a prevalence rate of 1510 per 100,000 workers.
  • The total number of working days lost due to this condition in 2015/16 was 11.7 million days. This equated to an average of 23.9 days lost per case.
  • In 2015/16 stress accounted for 37% of all work related ill health cases and 45% of all working days lost due to ill health.
  • The main work factors cited by respondents as causing work related stress, depression or anxiety (LFS) were workload pressures, including tight deadlines, too much responsibility and a lack of managerial support. 

Here are my top tips to help leaders navigate those workload pressures before they spiral out of control;

#1 Speak Up

Sounds obvious, I know. If you continue as you are, nothing with change. Your leaders or manager will think you are OK with the set-up. You’re not! The conversation will take you one of two ways. Your manager not realizing you are under pressure and take steps and actions to resolve this or your manager in-overtly explaining this is the norm and get on with it. You have now realized maybe this job/company is not a cultural fit with you and it’s time to go.

#2 Delegate or ask for help

Are you doing too much because you’re not delegating or simply not asking for help? You may not have a challenge with overseeing the work but do you physically have to do it all? Is there someone in the team who could take their share of the workload? Again, if you don’t ask you won’t get.

#3 Prioritize, Prioritize and Prioritize again!

Another obvious one, I know. But how many times do we look at our to-do list and think ‘I’ve got so much to do, I just haven’t got the time to do it all’. Whilst that might be true, the question to ask is; ‘what have I got to do today, tomorrow, by the end of the week’ Chunk up your work into manageable daily tasks. Close out each day with a new task list for the next day based on what you achieved that day and what you hope to achieve tomorrow. You will see the progress and more importantly will feel in control.

#4 Say No or reprioritize.

This may be easier said than done, but sometimes you may have to kick back with a no. Or, if that feels impossible, another approach you could take is to share the impact of you accepting that additional piece of work. For example; ‘To deliver XYX by Friday, will mean I will get ABC to you next week’. You are not saying no, but you are re-aligning new deliverable dates for existing pieces of work.

#5 Switch OFF

When you’re not working and when it’s your ‘downtime’ switch of phones, tablets, laptops. Seeing a flashing red light on your phone saying new email message is not going to help you switch off. Your natural curiosity will want to see who it is from and what it is about. And guess what, once you’ve had a look your mind is now switched into work world.

We all recognize there will be times when the extra hard yards are asked of us – new product launch, new system deployment, a relocation – and we all put the hours in to make it a success, no questions asked.

But start to recognize or look out for the warning signs; are you working later, longer hours all the time? Is this becoming the norm? Has your workload significantly increased and it’s not due to a BIG event? Do you feel you’ve crossed the line between being positively challenged and productive to being overwhelmed and stressed? If any of these bells are ringing, take action now before it’s too late.

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