Workplace pressure contributes to mental health issues for the majority of business leaders, according to the IoD. We asked unLTD contributors what business leaders can do to address the problem – for their staff and for themselves.
Let’s accept that pressure in the workplace happens.
We can all handle a small amount of stress – the key is doing something about it before it becomes too much.
I coach one of the most under pressure group of professionals there is – headteachers and teachers. They have to deal instantly with a wide range of situations during the school day.
Plus there is the pressure to deliver on targets, the pressure of budgets, meeting the expectations of parents and other stakeholders, planning quality lessons, being observed regularly, the immensity of an Ofsted visit…the list goes on.
They can’t change what they face every day, but what they can do is be better prepared to handle the pressure and stress of their environment.
The strategies I use to help them begin this process are not confined to educational establishments, they are transferrable across other pressured working environments.
When I meet teachers who are struggling, I ask first: ‘Why do you teach?’ Understanding why gives people something to go back to when the pressure is on. Ask yourself, and your staff: ‘Why do you do what you do?’
Secondly, I look at how my clients refill their emotional tanks.
As a teacher, giving out emotionally is a constant. But you need to put back what you give out. If you don’t, then your tank will empty and when pressure hits, you have nothing left to give.
Time alone, time with friends and family, holidays, walking in the fresh air…they all help fill the tank, whatever your place of work.
We talk about what I term ‘Off-Loading’. Any environment that involves working alongside, with or for people will mean that you pick up emotional baggage.
You need to have a system in place to give it away. The more baggage you carry, the harder it gets to deal with other pressures.
I recommend supervision for the teachers I coach. One session every two weeks makes a huge difference.
Lastly, watch out for isolation in your colleagues. People feeling stressed tend to withdraw. They don’t take a break in the staffroom, normal conversation stops.
Step in. A gentle ‘How are you doing?’ or ‘I’ve noticed you’re not in the break area much’ will start to allow the person under pressure to release some of that.
Having these conversations and putting in place simple strategies will increase the ability to handle pressure and stress. It will raise awareness of mental health in your workplace, so that when things get tough, your staff know what to do and where to go to release the pressure.