Posts Tagged ‘stress’

Handling Stress in the Workplace

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

The following post is by Bruce Clarke, CAI’s CEO and President. The article originally appeared in Bruce’s News and Observer  column, The View from HR.

Bruce Clarke, President and CEO

Bruce Clarke, President and CEO

Few workplace environments are totally stress-free.

Most of us must work for money and benefits to provide our basic needs.  Yes, it would be nice if the job was fun and challenging, but too many are not.  Or maybe your manager does not know how to make it a good job!

If you have done everything you can to change things, and you must stay in the job for now, try some ways to limit its effect on the rest of your life.

NUTs

Scientists say much of our stress comes from NUTs,”Nagging Unfinished Tasks,” forcing us to think about things we should do but have put off.  Do you have a long list of workplace to-do items delayed for another day that cycles over and over in your head?  That’s NUTs.  The best way to get rid of NUTs is to do the unpleasant parts of the job first.  When you go home, there is much less to run through your head like a bad movie.

Go have that conversation, fix that mistake, do that boring task, finish the useless project your boss keeps asking about, produce that run for a difficult customer, finish the work you just do not like to do.  This really works!  You may even find the job is not so bad after all.

Flexibility

Work gets in the way when it has rigid time and place demands.  More and more, work can be done with flexible schedules and locations.  Many jobs have some room for flexibility where there is a willing manager and a good performing employee.

Would you like to work fewer hours?  How about hours outside the normal schedule?  Could you open up for early bird customers (or late arrivals) that currently go unserved?  Can the work be done anywhere?  Would you rather do ten-hour days, or work all weekend?  How could you get more done in less time with fewer unnecessary interruptions?

The point is, what change in place or time would help you fit work to your life, and help the employer provide better services or products?  Focus on what is good for both rather than just your own needs.  Maybe you can find an example at a competitor or similar business where this works well.  Talk to your manager.

Action Plan

If your best efforts to make the job work with your life have failed, it may be time to move on.  The best moves happen when you know what you really want and have a plan to get there.  Too many people leave a job impulsively for reasons such as “no travel,” only to find they now travel even more.

An Action Plan means you know what you want and you are willing to take time defining the steps to get there.  More importantly, you must have the discipline to actually follow (and sometimes revise) the steps.  It works best when your goals are positive rather than mostly avoidance of pain.

Too much stress in the workplace will affect your productivity, to say nothing of your state of mind and physical well-being. Be honest with yourself about when it may be time to leave a bad job.

3 Tips for Managing Stress Around the Holidays

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

ThanksgivingThe holiday season can be a wonderful time of year. It is a season of spending time with family and friends, celebrating the year’s successes, and ringing in the new year. Yet this time can also cause stress at work because it is notorious for being busy, and you find yourself having five to-do lists that never seem to get completed. As the year is coming to a close, you may wonder where the year went and how you are going to manage to meet your annual goals while preparing for the holidays. While being busy can be overwhelming, there are ways to ease your stress and manage work so that you can enjoy the season!

By following these three tips, you can start to say goodbye to stress for the holidays!

1. Make to-do lists

This may be an obvious concept that you could already be doing, but do you make to-do lists that sit around and inevitably become longer? To-do lists can be very helpful if they are specific and have an end. You may be thinking that you have an endless amount of things to do, but try to make to-do lists for different areas of your life. At work, categorize your to-do lists and make sure that they contain specific tasks that will be completed. It is also helpful to add completion dates to your list, so there’s a definite end in sight.

 

2. Prioritize your tasks

Now that you have your to-do list(s), you can now start prioritizing all of the tasks you need to do. It can be helpful to prioritize tasks by relevance if there are certain things that need to be done before others, or you can prioritize by desire. Putting the less desired tasks first gets them out of the way, so that you can make room for more enjoyable tasks that leave you feeling more motivated. By prioritizing your work, you then have a direction that you are going in to reach your goal.

 

3. Stop multitasking

Multitasking may seem helpful to do around the holidays because it allows you to get a lot done at once, but the fact is, we were not designed to multitask. It seems like a lot of things are getting done faster, but it in actuality, with your focus divided so much, you start to work at a slower pace and your quality of work could get diminished. You can only stretch yourself so thin before things start to get chaotic and stressful. Focus on one thing at a time so you can produce your best quality of work.

 

The holidays only happen once a year so make the most of them! Relax and enjoy yourself by following these three steps. By reducing the stress in your life, you make room for joy!

For more information on managing stress at work, call a member of our Advice and Resolution team today at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746. The team is now available 24 hours each day throughout the week! Please give us a call!

 

Photo Source: Satya Murthy

 

 

6 Reasons Taking Your Vacation Will Improve Your Work Performance

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

7956465780_5fb7b6d55a_zSummer is on its way. If you haven’t taken a vacation already and aren’t planning to do so, I would ask you to consider taking your time off.

You will enjoy a number of benefits when you use your vacation days. Some people prefer to work all of the time and some people have to work all of the time, but in either case, taking some time off, even just a few days, will improve your work performance.

Productivity generally lowers during the summer months. Taking a vacation will help you avoid being sluggish around the workplace. Check out the six benefits of using your vacation time below:

  • Spending time outside of work will help you focus on the important things in your life that do not revolve around your work, such as family and friends.
  • Your mind can relax. Taking time off will allow your mind to take a break, get some rest, and work at its optimal level when you return to the workplace.
  • A good vacation is greatly beneficial for those in roles that require creative and innovative thinking. Not focusing on your busy work week will enable you to get inspired and recharge your creative energy.
  • You can use your free time to complete tasks, get errands done or dedicate to yourself. Carving out time for the things you enjoy will improve your satisfaction in other areas of your life, like work.
  • Time away from work can help you figure out an issue that is currently stumping you in the workplace. Walking away from the problem and returning after a relaxing vacation can have you looking at the same issue from a different perspective.
  • Keep yourself healthy by taking a breather from your position. Stress and pressure are released when you’re not focused on your responsibilities at work, which allows you to sleep better, concentrate longer and be happier.

Make sure to use your vacation time this summer. For any questions regarding vacation time and its many benefits, please call CAI’s Advice and Resolution team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Kevin Dooley

 

 

 

Helping Employees Deal With Stress

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

In today’s post, Advice and Resolution team member Renee’ Watkins shares ways in which you can help your employees deal with workplace related stress.

Renee' Watkins, HR Advisor

Renee’ Watkins, HR Advisor

Stress in the workplace can lead to other health issues. Workers who are highly stressed are less likely to exercise, get enough sleep or eat healthy. High levels of stress over a prolonged period of time can also lead to stomach ulcers, hypertension, headaches and injuries due to distraction.

Signs your employees are under a high level of stress include: changes in attitude, a decrease in performance, missing deadlines, consistently late for work, withdrawal and increases in sick leave.

Many companies have taken the time to establish a formal stress-reduction program to assist their employees in managing stress in the workplace. However, if you do not have a formal program in place, there are a number of ways to help your employees identify and manage their own stress.

Post the following tips in common areas of the workplace as a way of helping employees who may feel stress and not quite sure how to handle it.

Take note of your own stress level and the things that cause you stress. Pay attention to the signals your body sends to let you know you are carrying too much stress.

Understand how you deal with stress. Is stress causing you to pick up or increase unhealthy habits such as smoking, drinking or eating poorly? Has your attitude at worked suffered?

Disconnect whenever possible. When not at work, turn off your cell phone and stay off of email. If your job requires connectivity outside of normal work hours, set specific times when you will return calls and emails, and stick to that schedule in order to have some time away from work.

Maintain a list of tasks. Constantly keeping a list in your head of everything you need to do can be overwhelming. Make a list of everything you need to do and then divide it by today, tomorrow, and so on. Separate work-related tasks from non-work-related tasks. This will make your workload appear smaller and more manageable, thus reducing stress.

Accept responsibility for your own stress levels. Regardless of what is actually causing your stress, the real issue is how you react to it.

Take short breaks several times each day. This may not seem like much, but a two minute walk away from your desk and computer several times a day will help you to stay focused and energized. Take a short walk, breathe deeply, stretch your back and clear your head of thoughts.

Find time for yourself. There will always be plenty going on at work and at home. Once a task is completed, there will be several more to take its place. It is very important to take time out to exercise and eat healthy. Read a good book or take up a hobby that interests you.

Change your thinking. Try not to set goals for yourself that cannot be realized or depend too heavily on someone else. Unrealistic goals will set you up for failure and cause even more stress. Lower your expectations for perfection and be satisfied with putting forth your best effort each day.

Conflict and confrontations can cause enormous stress. Try to work things out calmly and find room for compromise whenever possible. Resolve conflicts quickly to eliminate stress more quickly and to prevent conflicts from growing larger and stronger.

Seek help when available. Friends and family members can help you better manage your stress levels. Employer-based EAP services such as counseling, work/life blend programs and access to mental health professionals may be available to you as well.

Don’t Lose Productivity When You Lose an Hour

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

effective time managementDaylight Saving Time is quickly approaching and will officially arrive at 2 a.m. this Sunday. To add daylight to our evenings and afternoons, we must lose an hour. For most of us who think there are already too few hours in the day, one less hour of sunlight could have a negative effect on productivity.

Don’t let the loss of time weaken your performance or increase your stress.  Try incorporating some time management strategies into your daily routine to stay productive. Effective time management isn’t an easy skill to maintain, but once you do, a number of benefits will emerge. Meeting deadlines will be easy. You’ll eliminate mistakes caused by rushing. Free time outside of work will increase because you were efficient with your time in the workplace.

Use the time management tips below, and the added daylight will only be a reminder that spring is near:

Treat yourself well

A good start to effective time management is practicing a healthy lifestyle. Poor concentration skills are often a result of not treating your body well. Help yourself focus by eating nutritious meals, exercising several times per week and getting plenty of sleep each night.

Plan your attack

Start each work day with a specific mission. Whether that mission is in the form of a to-do list or several reminders on your outlook calendar know what you want to accomplish. Being specific about what you want to get done will help you stay on track and avoid getting distracted.

Divide and conquer

 Not all of your projects have the same weight, so don’t treat them like they do. Small tasks are easy to accomplish, but ignoring big projects can cause stress when you’re racing to meet a deadline. Break up your massive project into smaller pieces to prevent yourself from becoming overwhelmed. Work on a part of it each day of the week, and voilá, you’ll finish before expected!

Don’t do everything

You don’t have to do everything, and you shouldn’t. Utilize help from your coworkers if you have items that can be completed quicker with teamwork, and reciprocate the favor when they come looking for extra hands. Additionally, if you don’t have time to do something, say no. Piling assignments onto your plate may get you that raise or promotion, but if you’re not able to handle the large workload, you’ll crash and burn from stress.

For additional tips to effectively manage time and increase your productivity, consider participating in CAI’s Time Mastery: Taking Control of Your Time course.

Photo Source: JogiBaer2

Four Tips for Onboarding Success

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

Starting a new job is overwhelming. Trying to perform your best and learn a load of information can be stressful. Help your new hires make a great start by preparing them with a strong onboarding process. Plan a schedule of action items  that will  get them familiar with your organization. Sharing company policies and resources available to all will help your new employee adjust well to their new position.

In addition to a thoroughly planned onboarding schedule, several personalized actions will show your new employee that you’re glad they joined your team. Implement some of the practices below when your new hire starts:

Start on Tuesday

Starting your new employee on your busiest work day will not allow you to spend the proper amount of time getting him acquainted with the organization. If your busiest day is Monday, start your employee on Tuesday or another day with a lighter work load. You can answer his questions, show him where supplies are and take some time to get to know him when you start your new hire on a less busy day.

Break Out the Welcome Wagon

Help your new employee settle into their new position by making them feel welcomed and part of the team. Stock their workspace with pens, notepads, a handbook and other materials that will ensure a successful start with the company. Let them know it’s okay to ask questions or to be confused. When a week goes by, check in with them to see how their first week went. If you can help them out with anything, make sure they know it.

Give Introductions

Trying to get things done without knowing who people are or where their office is can be frustrating for a new employee trying to give a good impression. Help her out by introducing her to members of your organization that she’ll be in direct contact with. Make sure she knows where different departments are and who she needs to reach out to for various tasks around the office.

Take Them Out

Show them you’re excited for them to be on your team. Take them out for lunch and ask the other members of your department to join. This is a great time to get to know one another. Ask your new employee how their first day is going. Also encourage them tell more about themselves, like what they like to do in their free time or what their favorite sports are.

For more tips for a great onboarding process, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7786.

Photo Source: Victor1558

Okay, You Made a Mistake at Work. Now What?

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Have you ever made an office gaffe? If yes, how did you react? Did you immediately come clean to your supervisor, apologizing for the error you committed? Or did you cower in your office, hoping no one would figure out it was your fault when “you know what” hit the fan.

Depending on your workplace environment, you and your team members’ reactions to mistakes could vary greatly. How does your company handle mistakes? Are people yelled at, punished or embarrassed? What comes after the mistake? Nothing, ambivalence or more rules? Well if any of those characteristics described your workplace, an evaluation of how you handle mistakes is appropriate.

Supporting team members when they make mistakes is helpful to all involved. When a mistake is not the end of your career, you’re able to learn lessons and more. Here are four benefits of owning up to your workplace blunders:

Avoid the Drama

Excuses, blame games and throwing people under the bus can ensue after a workplace mistake is discovered. However, if you cultivate a culture in which mistakes are permitted and you’re required to learn a lesson, a probable witch hunt will be thwarted because the culprit will feel comfortable coming clean. He won’t have to waste more time covering his tracks or creating alibis.

A Quicker Fix

The faster your team learns who’s responsible for the mistake, why the mistake was made and how the mistake will affect business, the quicker you can work to resolve any issues that are associated with it. Don’t let a workplace oversight take control of your organization. Encourage your team to be forthcoming with errors that will affect your business. Although it might cause an immediate small pain, in the long run, your business should be feeling fine.

Innovation and Efficiency Arise

Sometimes an employee mistake reveals the inefficiency of a workplace process that needs updating. Knowing where an assignment went wrong or how a deliverable was held up could foster innovation for preventing a similar occurrence from happening again. Challenge your employees to find a solution to a mistake first.

Number of Mistakes Decrease

The more stressed an employee is, the more mistakes he is likely to make. Being fearful of making an error only increases pressure on yourself and your employees. Letting them know that mistakes happen and a blunder is not the end of the world will help them shake away some stress, have clearer heads and perform at optimal levels for your organization.

For advice to encourage your team members to not be afraid to make or reveal a mistake, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Brett Jordan

4 Reasons Why You Should Take Your Vacation Days

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

I hope everyone enjoyed a relaxing and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend—free from work and even email! Taking vacation is underutilized by many employees, and the reasons why vary. Some workers believe that they must always be in work mode to get a promotion or even keep their jobs. Others plan poorly and realize at the end of the year that they didn’t take enough vacation and that their allotted days have expired.

Forgoing your vacation days isn’t advantageous. Taking time to unplug from work is helpful for both employees and employers because several benefits emerge from taking regular time off. Here are some of the top reasons why you should use your vacation days and encourage your staff to do the same:

Maintain Health

    • Leaving the office for several days reenergizes your mind and body. Worry and tension is released when you’re not focused on your responsibilities at the office, allowing you to sleep better, concentrate longer and be happier. Studies reveal that vacations can also reduce feelings of depression.

Prevent Stress

    • Always pushing yourself and working past your limits without breaks causes stress. The high-anxiety atmosphere you create for yourself will ultimately catch up with you, whether the result is business failure or poor health. Take your vacation throughout the year to decrease workplace stress and keep it at a manageable level.

Inspire Creativity

    • Vacations are great for inspiring creativity because your brain isn’t focused on the long list of tasks and projects you left at the office. Time off allows your brain to recharge from your busy workweek. A good recharge is especially beneficial to employees who have positions requiring creative and innovative thinking

Improve Job Performance

    • Taking your vacation time helps you return to the office fresh and motivated to take on your goals and workplace challenges. With your stress levels down and your brain fully charged, your productivity and job satisfaction will increase. Additionally, you will have a more positive outlook, which will help you nurture and maintain better relationships with your coworkers.

Cut the number of long days you spend at the office and raise your number of requests for time off this year. For any questions regarding vacation time and its many benefits, please call CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Nicolas Mamberti

Enhance Your Health and Productivity with Work-Friendly Exercises

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Have you been feeling stressed or tired after finishing your work week? Are you finding it hard to concentrate in staff meetings? Is a routine task taking you longer to complete? If so, here’s a remedy to try: exercise!

Research shows that exercise provides people with a number of benefits. In addition to weight loss and preventing diseases and injuries, regular exercise can improve your job performance. Feeling stressed? When you exercise, you produce endorphins that help fight away stress hormones. Trouble focusing? A consistent exercise routine helps you concentrate better and learn faster. Still tired after waking up? Frequent exercise improves your quality of sleep so that you fall asleep easier and stay asleep longer.

Juggling work and life is a task that many people find challenging, but finding the time and dedication to focus on exercise is well worth the reward.  If your time is scarce, break up your exercise routine into 15 minute increments throughout the day. If motivation is your problem, enlist a coworker or friend to be your exercise buddy. There are even ways to increase your fitness level while working. Here are a few:

  • Park in the furthest parking spot from the building
  • Always opt for the stairs
  • Swap your desk chair for a fitness ball to improve balance and strengthen your core
  • Instead of reaching your coworkers through email or by phone, walk to their offices
  • If you have a short commute, try walking or biking to work a few times per week
  • Drink multiple cups of water throughout the day
  • Go to the gym or walk outside during your lunch break
  • Maintain good posture when standing or sitting to keep core muscles working
  • Stand up while doing tasks, like talking on the phone or reviewing documents

Many workers sit at a desk for eight or more hours a day, increasing their risk for obesity, back pain, poor posture, tense muscles and early health issues. Incorporate a regular fitness routine into your schedule to enhance your health and career.

Please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746 for additional tips on exercise and work performance.

Photo Source: lululemon athletica

4 Tips to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Bruce Clarke, CAI’s CEO, started his latest edition of his N&O Column, the View from HR, with a quote:

“People are emotional first and rational second: Logic makes people think; emotions make people act.”*

Bruce says that having strong Emotional Intelligence is key to personal and professional success. Emotional intelligence (EI) describes a person’s capacity for controlling his or her own emotions and recognizing and understanding the emotions of others. EI also reveals how people react to others’ emotions and how they manage their various relationships.

In today’s business world, having a great EI is a strong competitive advantage against colleagues and peers who don’t. Employees with high EIs are beneficial to their organizations for many reasons. They build great relationships with their coworkers and clients, they’re graceful and collected in high-stress situations, and they’re able to understand and react appropriately to the actions of others.

Bruce says that business leaders with strong EIs are more successful in hiring, managing growth problems, leading people and teaching others. Refining your own emotional intelligence will help you become a better employee and leader at your organization. Try the following 4 tips to improve your EI:

1.       Analyze Yourself

Be mindful of your own emotions and how you respond to different emotional situations. Be honest with yourself to determine your strengths and weaknesses, and how they might affect others. Work to take responsibility for all of your actions. Be open-minded, and stay positive in different business scenarios.

2.       Really Listen

While others are talking, instead of listening, many people are thinking up their response. People with high EIs are able to focus on what the speaker is actually saying. Try to direct your attention on understanding what the person is communicating. Summarize what you think you heard to the speaker, and ask him or her questions to clarify if needed.

3.       Be Aware of Body Language

Understanding body language and nonverbal communication will help you identify how someone is truly feeling. Practice recognizing whether someone’s body language matches up to what he or she is actually saying, and react accordingly. Watch for facial expressions, tone of voice, and body and eye movements.

4.       Identify What Causes You Stress

Whether it’s an overload of work or sick children at home, there are a number of factors that can cause us stress. Identify the things that cause you the most stress, and recognize that you hold the power to bring yourself back to a calm state of mind. Practice constructive coping mechanisms, like exercise and meditation, to bring you back down when your stress levels are running high. Avoid taking your stress out on others.

Cultivating your Emotional Intelligence takes patience and time. For more strategies, you may consider participating in CAI’s class called Leveraging Your Emotional Intelligence.

*Quote from Reuven Bar-On, Ph.D. and the Emotional Quotient Inventory.

Photo Source: Victor1558