Stress Awareness Month 2022
April is stress awareness month. The theme for this year’s campaign is “community”.
With the challenges that we have faced during the pandemic, many individuals have seen the importance of community and how much a lack of social interaction can contribute to stress and wellbeing.
We’re launching a campaign that celebrates this event. We hope to inspire other companies to take the lead and boost workplace wellbeing.
Over the month we will be publishing resources that will promote awareness of the effects of stress and how we can tackle them. By managing stress correctly, we can invest in ourselves and our team.
Stress in the world of professionals.
Stress is a feeling we all experience at some point in our careers, and in a fast-paced work environment, the chances are even higher. If we’re not stressing over the traffic, it’s the printer, or the meetings we have to attend – or the fact that the coffee has run out and not been replaced. For the professional service industry, stress affects us on different levels, which can result in negative consequences if not managed properly.
It has been two years since the very first COVID-19 UK lockdown. And for many, working from home has caused more stress than relief. Stress.org identified that 65% of people are more stressed than before the COVID-19 pandemic. For those working in law or accountancy, stress comes in large, consistent waves: court deadlines, high caseload, payroll legislation updates, VAT and tax returns. And sometimes, it’s hard to juggle work life and personal life together.
As professionals, allowing us to show our emotions not only teaches us how to understand our clients but to also understand our own feelings – avoiding burnout, irritation and most importantly of all, the neglect of our emotional wellbeing.
Addressing stress in professional businesses.
Studies have shown that stress levels have risen significantly since the start of the pandemic. The Chartered Accountants Benevolent Association (CABA) found that the two main reasons employees call in sick were that they were concerned for their mental health and well-being. This research highlighted that 32% of accountants feel stressed in their work-life, with 17% being forced to prioritise their wellbeing and taking time off to avoid burnout. Another study by the IBA called ‘Mental Wellbeing in the Legal Profession: A global study’ discovered that over 41% do not discuss their mental health or wellbeing with their employer, due to the fear of not being understood, or worse, believed.
Yet it isn’t solely the work or the work environment that is causing this stress. According to the IBA, an average of 55% of employers aged between 25-29 struggle with the pressure of being a professional. These levels decrease slightly with different age groups. However, most show signs of struggling with work pressure and a high workload.
To encourage workers from not prioritising their well-being, it is vital to have an open and supportive environment where employees feel comfortable talking about any issue that might be causing them stress, anxiety or negative feeling. We can do this by creating a positive well-being culture within our team. By setting an example, and investing in our wellness – we can eliminate any barrier that may stop us from communicating and receiving the support we deserve.
How to combat stress
- Recognise your stress
The first thing we ought to do as professionals are to take a minute to catch up with ourselves. At ETL, we encourage staff to get to know how they feel. Admitting that we are stressed can be challenging, but is essential for our well-being and mental health.
Do not neglect yourself or your time. It’s important to remember that the only person who is in control of your workload, is you. Therefore, it’s vital to say no on some occasions. Yes, it might be hard at first. Yet you need to remember that your mentors, managers, and bosses have all had to set boundaries to get to where they are. And still, to this day, they still set boundaries.
Upon asking, “How do you set boundaries at work to prioritise your wellbeing?” Emma Martin, head of marketing for ETL Global UK, said:
Your own well-being should be non-negotiable. It’s not something that comes naturally to me, but over the years I’ve found that saying no without feeling guilty is necessary. It helps to set the boundaries from complete work overload to a more balanced work-life.
Another tool I try to stick to is “asking for what you want” – being clear and direct with your colleagues and clients will, in time, lead to a more positive work environment.
As I have got older, I can now finally say I really understand and appreciate the need for personal wellbeing. It’s a challenge in itself trying to retrain your body to eat well during busy times at work, but sticking to a healthier diet has improved my ability to focus. Late evenings in the gym are definitely a way to help clear my mind and prepare for a new day. Being a busy mum of 3, I’m still working on getting enough sleep!
But ultimately, taking time out and maintaining your everyday resilience is crucial to protecting your wellbeing at work.
Boundaries are admirable and do not cause harm, but instead create a culture of mutual understanding and respect, encouraging us to build healthy work relationships that motivate and encourage our staff.
- Support one another
If your colleagues are struggling, encourage staff to find ways to support their needs. After all, we are a team. Sometimes, all we need is someone to listen to us. Not to give us advice, not to tell us where we are going wrong (or right!), just an ear that will listen when we need it the most. Listening helps us understand the problem and sympathise with those struggling – thus improving our social skills!
The point should be that we never let anyone suffer alone. By working as a team, we can tackle things with confidence and ease.
- Breathing Techniques
Always make time to breathe, especially in those moments when you feel overwhelmed and tired. It is easy to forget about our own stress levels and keep pushing to tackle more work. But have you ever stopped and listened to yourself breathing? Try it. Sometimes you might work so hard and fast that you notice you’re breathing through your mouth! Studies have shown that each type of breathing can be linked to different emotions.
At ETL Global UK, we constantly strive to promote staff wellbeing and mental health. By engaging with Stress Awareness month, we are uplifting and creating a culture of wellness that motivates our employees to tackle stress effectively. Last month, our partner at Glaisyers ETL took part in the #Mywholeself supporting the MHFA England campaign for culture change in the workplace.
Glaisyers ETL actively helps their staff by creating an environment where they can feel comfortable bringing their whole self to work – without stigmas or fear of being misunderstood. We also encourage employees to access resources such as Mind.org.uk and other groups that can provide professional support regarding stress.
Throughout April, we will be supporting Stress Awareness Month and sharing the thoughts and advice of our employees have. We would love to hear your plans if you’re also celebrating Stress Awareness Month.
Email [email protected] to get involved.