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Stress Awareness Month: How to maintain a healthy work-life balance

Stress Awareness Month has been held every April since 1992 to increase public awareness about both the causes and cures for our modern stress epidemic.

The latest estimates from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) show the total number of work related stress, depression or anxiety cases in 2019/20 were 828,000, a prevalence rate of 2,440 per 100,000 workers. This was statistically significantly higher than the previous period. The survey also found that in 2019/20, stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 51% of all work-related illness and 55% of working days lost due to work-related ill health.

A survey in 2020 by perkbox found, of British adults in employment, a staggering 79% of adults commonly experience work-related stress. This makes work-related stress the most common form of stress in the UK.

With stress a major factor in the UK workforce, what can we do to achieve a healthier work-life balance?

1. Talk

Yes, it might seem obvious, but if you start to feel stressed, talk to someone. We can all feel stressed at times, particularly when we feel as though everything becomes too much and things get on top of us, whether it’s a work, family or another type of issue.

Often stress is caused by a combination of factors in our personal and working lives.  So when it comes to work, the best thing to do is to talk with your employer. If you’re self-employed, consider speaking to a coach, mentor, or trusted professional to identify issues and talk about solutions to tackle the problem.

2. Get Active

Exercise won’t necessarily make your stress disappear, but it can go a long way in clearing your head and making you feel a lot better.

A study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that regularly walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26 per cent and the American Council on Exercise says that one exercise session—even one as short as 20 minutes—can generate up to two hours of relaxation response that improves your mood and leaves you feeling calm.

But don’t just exercise anywhere.  Outdoors or away from the office is the best place to find a stress-free environment. Even a corporate fitness centre can trigger too many work-related thoughts for some people according to the American Council on Exercise.

3. Encourage workplace wellness

Whether you’re self-employed or an employer, encouraging yourself and your co-workers to exercise and undertake healthy living, is a good place to start.

According to UK life insurance company Vitality, the UK economy loses an estimated £91 billion from poor employee health, and as a result it offers employees reward-based incentives for healthy living.

A study by found that 66% of employees felt extremely, or very happy, when their employer regularly stocked the refrigerator and cupboards, and 83% said that having healthy and fresh snack options was a huge perk.

4. Get organised

Feeling overwhelmed is a major stressor. A great way to help reduce your stress is to learn how to handle stress at work by prioritising and organising. Here’s a few tips on how to do it:

Goal setting. Sit down and set your goals and get them clarified so you ae super clear what you need to do.

Focus.  Choose two or three goals – the most important things.  You can’t have everything as a goal, otherwise you will feel over-whelmed and stress.

Set deadlines.  Setting realistic deadlines will help you plan ahead and ensure things don’t get pushed aside. 

Make use of your calendar.  Calendars aren’t just for meeting and appointments.  Plan your day the night before and ideally your week on a Friday night before you leave work.  That way you know what you are doing when and feel in control when you get in.

Make a list.  A to-do list helps you set priorities. A study by professors Baumeister and Masicampo from Wake Forest University in the US showed that planning can free us from anxiety.

5. Sleeeeeeppppp

Stress has long been linked to chronic insomnia.  According to the NHS one in 3 of us suffer from poor sleep, with stress, computers and taking work home often blamed. An occasional night without sleep makes you feel tired and irritable the next day, but after several sleepless nights, the mental effects become more serious, making it difficult to concentrate and make decisions.

A recent study of 1,000 adults tracked productivity and sleep quantity and quality. The study found that sleep duration (both short and long), insomnia, sleepiness, and snoring were all associated with decreased work productivity.  The study’s recommendation was sleep should be considered an important element in workplace health.

Night, night.

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