Are you stressed at work? Take action and deal with it! Picture credit:
Stretching can help you stay fit and healthy at work. Picture credit:

We spend most of our workdays in offices. Nadia Badarudin talks to an expert on how not to allow office matters get to you.

YOUR day starts off with crazy morning traffic to work. Despite that, your creative juices are flowing and your brain is bursting with brilliant ideas for a business proposal.

But as you are about to finish the first paragraph of the proposal, a colleague approaches and starts gossiping about another staff whom you don’t actually know. The phone rings and the caller asks about the e-mail invitation he sent last week.

At the same time, you hear the boss calling out your name from his room asking for God knows what. And when you are about to continue your work, the computer freezes!

We have faced all these at work, from dealing with common daily hiccups and mundane tasks to coping with physical and mental stress or sickness resulting from extra work. There’s also the “problem child” colleague, less pay, non-conducive working environment, constantly-changing office policy or other matters that go beyond our own capacity and capability to resolve.

In an article published in Psychology Today in 2012, psychologist Douglas LaBier says studies regularly show that the workplace culture can create serious conflicts for many people and can be physically and mentally damaging.

No job is free from conflicts and arguments. Picture credit:

Singling out stress as a major health culprit and the most common outcome resulting from work issues, Dr K. Sashetheran Nadaraja, resident medical officer at Sri Kota Specialist Medical Centre, says there are various factors that can turn the workplace into a health hazard.

“From my point of view, the factors can be non-stress related such as injuries or ergonomics, or stress-related such as personal problems. Some of these factors are inter-related and can be further divided into two main categories, the employer or management factors and the employee or individual factors,” says Dr Sashetheran, who heads the centre’s emergency department and mortuary services.

Apart from failure to provide a safe and conducive working environment (e.g. proper ventilation or lighting, ergonomic chairs and desks etc.), over-expectations from the employees can have an impact on the latter’s performance.

“Lack of staff, cost-cutting measures, shorter deadlines, unclear career paths or giving work that goes beyond the employee’s capability can affect the productivity of the whole company,” he says. However, individual factors matter most when it comes to being happy at work, he says.

“The factors can be everything from dealing with extra work or annoying colleagues to personal problems or financial issues.

“Sometimes the pressure at work is self-inflicted. This means that the employee tends to do things that his superior doesn’t ask him to do. This happens when he feels insecure and tries things not in his league to achieve the so-called acceptable status in his own community or circle.

“And when he fails to achieve what he wants, he would burnout or breakdown and blame the job,” he explains.

“Lack of staff, cost-cutting measures, shorter deadlines, unclear career paths or giving work that goes beyond the employee’s capability can affect the productivity of the whole company,” says Dr K. Sashetheran Nadaraja.

Let’s face it, no job is free from conflict. Everybody is trying to make a living and you cannot blame the world if things don’t go your way. The only thing that can help you to be happy at work is to deal with the situation and adapt.

Dr Sashetheran says the most important thing to do is to stay positive at work is self-awareness. “Do the job you love or love the job you’re doing. Know your capabilities and limitations.

“Ask yourself, ‘Am I happy with my job?’ If not, why? Identify the issues and find ways to overcome them. Think of the things that you can change and correct. If you’re stressed out, find your own way or a hobby to reduce that. Not everyone likes to exercise to reduce stress.

“And get professional help from a psychiatrist if you think that will help you to be happy at work again,” he says.

So, rather than silently fuming about work interruptions or conflicts, take action. Here are simple ways as suggested by Forbes, The Daily Muse and WebMD.

1. If your colleague loves to talk loudly on the phone, the only thing to stop this is to tell him about it. Don’t sulk in silence.

2. If your colleague wants to start a conversation while you are very busy, try to politely decline and tell her that you will catch up with her later.

3. If you think you are overworked and underpaid, perhaps it is time to test your market value somewhere else. Don’t go around complaining about it (or let it all out on your Facebook status).

4. Try to stay away from working long hours and long stretches. Don’t take your work home and don’t bring your problems from home to work. Take a vacation to help recharge.

5. If you feel like you are tasked with menial things or you don’t like your boss yelling out your name from his room, tell him very nicely that you want that to stop. Remember, your boss cannot read your mind.

6. The “Do Not Disturb” button on your smart phone or the “Out of Office” message are there for a reason. Use them so that you will not be swamped with calls or unwanted messages while you are away or taking time off.

7. Stay fit and healthy.

- Drink adequate amounts of water. Alternatively, snack on oranges, watermelon, grapes, apples or other types of food that are also good sources of water.

- Do simple stretching exercises. Take a walk during lunch or park farther away so have a short walk to work in the morning and evening. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

- Besides eating healthy, practice portion control when you eat at work or at work-related events.

- Keep the distance of the computer screen to your eyes about an arm’s length away, or increase the font size to avoid eyestrain.

- Your keyboard, mouse and phone can harbour germs and make you sick. Clean them as frequent as possible.

1. If not necessary, don’t cc the boss of the person whom you are writing to when making requests; it will imply that the recipient needs extra prodding to get things done.

2. Avoid scheduling important meetings after 3pm because studies show that most of us are not in the right zone – we would become “too stubborn or too compliant in the decision-making” — several hours after lunch. (And yes, some may have started focusing on other things like the horrible traffic after the meeting is done).

3. Stop giving excuses for things that can be overcome at the first place. Show some respect and don’t insult the intelligence of the listener.

4. Don’t hit the “Reply All” unnecessarily. Not everyone wants to hear from you.

Technology can help you stay focused (and sane) at work. Use it wisely. Picture credit:

1. Focus on your responsibility as a boss to get things done, not on your frustration or negative feelings towards the employee.

2. Your employee is not you. Ask yourself whether your employee is driving you crazy because of a performance deficiency, or is he simply being himself when you had rather he act more like you?

3. Your employee is not paid to think like you.

4. Set the standard. Sometimes the job has not been done because you have been a little lax in enforcing the standard. So, communicate your expectations about how it should be done clearly.

5. You don’t have to like an employee to work well with him or her. As long as the job is done, let the rest go.

Source: Adapted from What to do When Employees Drive You Crazy by The Omnia Group

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