Recently tagged by UK mental health charity MIND as Britain’s £26 billion epidemic, workplace stress is an insidious and increasing problem that is manifesting on a global scale. The cost of putting on a happy face is not only dear to the individual, it also has a knock-on effect in workplace productivity.
Given how much time we spend at work – at a minimum it’s likely to be eight hours a day, five days a week, 46 weeks a year – creating moments of calm during the work day provides important respite that can make a big difference between enjoying and not enjoying the work we do. It’s important too because, given the amount of time we spend at work, if it’s not going well this can then spill over into, and spoil our enjoyment of, other areas of our lives; our time off, our personal relationships, health and more.
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.
How to create workplace calm
Whatever our personality type, there are times in every working day when a feeling of calm can elude us. By factoring in useful techniques for particularly stressful moments – whether they’re induced by work-load, deadlines, dealing with difficult people or just feeling temporarily overwhelmed – you’ll find your day a lot calmer and more manageable.
In order to create more calm in my life, I made a somewhat drastic decision. I changed hospital, so now my commute is a 12-minute walk from home. It compensates enormously for the stress and the long hours.
Dr Simon Eccles, accident and emergency consultant
Top tips for creating moments of calm in the working day:
- Factor in a short walk before and after you leave the office – even if it just means getting off the bus a stop earlier to walk the last bit; it creates a small gap in the day where you can collect your thoughts and plan what’s next.
- Take your lunch break every day – not only is it important to eat something nutritious to keep your blood sugar stable – but it also gives you time out to get some fresh air and daylight (and even sunshine when it’s available). Taking a short walk clears your head and energises your body, even if it’s just around the block.
- Tackle one task at a time – multitasking is your enemy when it comes to keeping calm: make a list, prioritise your tasks and work your way through them.
- Be realistic about what you can accomplish – even if your list is long, if it’s prioritised and you are able to cross just one or two things off in a day, tackle the next priority tomorrow.
- Work in good light – full-spectrum lighting is best as it helps lift mood and is especially useful for those winter months when daylight hours are short.
- Make your screensaver something calm – maybe a beautiful rural scene or a lake or river – it takes two minutes every hour to do this.
- Make the humble house plant your friend – research has shown that natural greenery in the environment helps us feel calm.
- Keep hydrated – we become thirsty before we’re aware of it and start to feel restless without realising why.
When I arrived in 2012, I introduced a policy for both adults and children of always remaining calm and non-confrontational. The minute you shout, people don’t listen to you; they just focus on the noise you’re creating rather than what you’re saying.
Jan Shadick, headteacher at a comprehensive school
It is particularly important to be a still, small voice of calm when you are in charge – leading a team, managing a workforce, running an event – it inspires confidence. On ne règne sur les âmes que par le calme (one can only impose one’s authority on other people by being calm and confident) was a favourite saying of Winston Churchill’s, and it seemed to serve him well enough.
Extract taken from I Want to be Calm by Harriet Griffey (Hardie Grant, £8.99)