Top tips for a stress-free return to work
Christmas holidays are coming to an end and Australians are returning to work – and organisational health expert Konekt has some key tips on returning to work stress-free.
“After having some relaxing time off over Christmas and breaking with routine, it’s quite normal to feel a little flat when the holidays are at an end,” says Konekt psychologist Amanda Johnston.
“However, you don’t need to return to work with a feeling of dread. Generally these feelings are temporary, a period of adjustment while you reacquaint yourself with your day-to-day routine. And there are a number of things you can do to beat the post-holiday blues and ease back into work.”
Look after yourself
- Get a good night’s sleep – and reset your body clock, as you’ll no doubt be getting out of bed earlier to get to work. (And remember, tired muscles are more prone to injury).
- Plan some ‘me’ or ‘relaxation’ time: This helps to keep your mind and body ‘sane’. “The time and the way you do this may need to change when you return to work, but it is critical that you still make time for it,” Amanda says. “It also gives you something to look forward to each day, and this can assist you to get through some of the less pleasant aspects of life.”
- Exercise: People are able to better cope with stress when their bodies are healthy. Incorporating periods of physical exercise into your routine will help to improve muscle control, make you feel happier, healthier and increase self-esteem.
- Eat well: Try to improve your diet and avoid stimulants where possible. Excess caffeine or nicotine can make you feel anxious or on edge.
- Drink plenty of water: Discs and joint capsules deflate when we are dehydrated.
- Make an effort to have your first weeks back as organised as possible – e.g. place reminders / appointment details in your calendar or diary for the first two to three weeks. “Whether it be lunches, travel to and from work, or even what you’re wearing for the day, effective time management regulates your tasks and reduces the uncertainty of not having enough time to complete the task required,” Amanda explains. “Plus it allows for ‘time off/relaxation’ periods.”
- Plan something enjoyable: This could be a get-together with friends, a weekend away or even your next holiday. “It’s important to have pleasurable activities to look forward to,” Amanda says.
Take regular breaks
- Move your body: Ensure you have regular breaks during the day; get up out of your chair to have a stretch or walk around to keep the blood circulating and mind alert. “Micro-pause breaks and postural reversal (e.g. stretching to the opposite posture of what you have been doing) can help you stay fresher and more energised for longer,” explains Konekt’s chief ergonomist, Mary Vetere.
- Get outside: If you work indoors it can be a good idea to get outside in the sunshine. Perhaps take your lunch outdoors, go for a walk, or get a coffee (weather permitting of course!)
- Seek support from others: If you have any issues, don’t try to cope alone. “If you begin to feel stressed, discuss this with your immediate supervisor or manager to make sure they’re aware,” says Konekt psychologist Kit Underdown. “That way you can work together to develop strategies to manage any stressful situations as they may arise.”
“Recent research conducted by Konekt (the Konekt Market Report) shows that around 12 per cent of reported workplace-related injuries are psychological injuries, such as stress, anxiety, depression and adjustment disorder. So it’s important for employees and employers to have strategies in place to address these issues early.”
Tips for managers
- Work with your employees to review their workload upon returning from Christmas and assist them to prioritise what needs actioning most urgently.
- Have regular catch ups: Managers should regularly meet with staff, even if it’s only a short catch up, to discuss activities and any issues.
- Ask and listen: Ask your employees how they’re feeling and what’s been happening, and LISTEN to their answer.
- Act: If you say you’re going to do something to assist a staff member, do it.
- Improve communication in the workplace: Share information with employees to reduce uncertainty about their jobs and futures; clearly define employees’ roles and responsibilities.
- Show employees they are valued: Look at schemes to recognise good work, such as employee of the month.
- Provide responsibility and accountability: Ownership and incentives assist in creating an ‘entrepreneurial’ work environment and place an element of control back into the worker’s hands
- Cultivate a friendly social environment.
- Be ergonomic: Ensure workstations are appropriately set up to avoid back and neck strains/pains or RSI and thus minimise risk of injury. “The Konekt Market Report shows that 60 per cent of workplace-related injuries are musculoskeletal, so it’s vital to make sure workstations are set up ergonomically,” advises Mary Vetere. “In addition, taking regular breaks, moving around and stretching are important to help prevent such injuries.”