Researchers at UC Berkeley think they have found a reason why acute short-term stress boosts brain performance. The scientists point out: “It’s a question of how much, how long and how you perceive it.” If you can use stress to your advantage, then all well and good.
But work pressures are a growing cause of concern. Research by BUPA as part of its Healthy Minds programme says managers are often too stressed to notice colleagues may not be coping. It found half of managers felt ‘constantly worried’. Top of the stress factor chart according to BUPA is workload and trying to meet targets.
Good advice from Real Business includes watching the things we often overlook at work – what we eat, how we organise our time, taking breaks and not reacting too quickly when under stress. Real Business found the age group at most risk are 35-54 year olds.
Organisations recognise the benefits of providing employees with help to tackle stress. A survey by Human Resources consultancy Tower Watson found 40% of companies surveyed had stress management programmes in place and a further 31% planned to introduce them in the next two years. Helping employees to beat stress is so important there is a personnel industry award in the UK to recognise the best company stress management programme – won this year by BMW.
If you have a hard time using stress to your advantage when deadlines loom then these techniques may help:
• Start planning from the end backwards: decide the outcome you want to achieve and what actions you need to take in what order to get there
• Identify pinch points and prioritise actions to mitigate these high risk areas as early as possible in the process
• Assess what you can’t control (which is one of the most stressful situations to be in), don’t be reluctant to ask for help. If you can’t control something, try and work round it by finding an alternative route to reach your desired outcome
• Don’t forget to be flexible. Be prepared to change your plan or process to achieve your target or deadline
• Learn from your stressful experience. Write down what went wrong and what compromise actions worked best.
The next time the phone rings at 5.00pm on a Friday with a very urgent demand from an extremely important client, remember to laugh – or at least smile confidently – in the face of a stressful deadline.