The Australian Psychological Society (APS) has found that 70% of people who are under stress have some kind of negative physical reaction, while two- thirds said it impacted on their mental health as well. In my business I’ve implemented strategies for myself and my teams to help give us the best chance of succeeding.
Here I’ve listed my best eight tips for how to stay healthy and stress free in the workplace:
1. Work/life balance
I’ve found that running a business means it doesn’t take much effort to chew through a normal ‘40 hour’ work week, go well beyond and still have important tasks left incomplete. This can lead to a life where the equal spread of work, rest and play that should make up our day becomes unevenly distorted, with work stealing time from resting and enjoying our leisure time.
To stop the bleed of work into other important areas of my life, I have to be incredibly honest with my time and brutally prioritise what’s important at work. It’s then up to me to get those jobs done, and then devote enough time to other important areas of life like sleeping, getting exercise, spending time with family and friends, and pursuing hobbies and areas of interest.
My best tip here is to schedule in the ‘must haves’. It’s so easy to get hijacked by scope and time creep so I make sure I have ‘stop working’ times to stay motivated and know when to head out the door.
2. Take your breaks
I used to be an absolute shocker in this department. I’ve had to really push to change some old habits but now know that the last thing you want to be doing is eating lunch at your desk every day, or working for long hours in an attempt to ‘be productive’.
The research clearly shows that you are going to be far more productive over a longer period of time if you take short breaks. Outside of refuelling I’ve found that a few minutes break every half an hour or so will make a world of difference. It’s also a great way to create positive relationships if you have staff. Rather than being disconnected and isolated, I strongly suggest you share your lunch time and see what difference it makes to get up and move.
3. Don’t be scared to communicate
By keeping the lines of communication open, you can let people know about the progress you’re making on their job and give estimates of when you’ll be finished. While it can be daunting at times to tell someone that you can’t make a deadline, it’s even worse to keep them in the dark and then disappoint them when their expectations aren’t met.
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I’ve found it very stress-relieving to keep in mind that as long as everyone is on the same page, plans and deadlines are able to have an element of flexibility. While it’s important to avoid goal slippage, it’s crucial to be honest if the unexpected has occurred and priorities need to be revisited. I make sure that I allocate and stick to regular structured time for open and honest feedback on important tasks and projects to remain as agile as possible.
4. Get involved in charitable work
I’ve always wanted to feel proud that the efforts being put into my business were also making a wider impact on the community. I’ve found it to be a huge morale booster to have adopted a 1-1-1 philanthropy model for our social programs. As an organisation we’ve pledged to donate 1% of our time, 1% of our profits and 1% of our products to local and international charities. Regardless of whether you are flying solo, or building a team, this type of program can be really motivating and gratifying.
5. Create a routine
While every day is unique for me, it’s still important to have some sort of structure to keep me on track. Humans are creatures of habit, and the more structure we can incorporate into our work lives, the more efficient we will be in achieving our goals. For example, because I have clients overseas, I spend the first 30 minutes after waking up checking and responding to emails. I then hit the gym or do some sort of exercise before heading to work at around 7.30 am. I try to leave work fairly early every day, then I set aside time at home each evening to catch up on work, because I can do so without any interruptions.
6. Don’t forget to enjoy life
Life is meant to be fun, so make sure you set aside time for play. During the winter months I play football, training twice a week and then playing a game on Saturday. In summer I hit the beach with my bodyboard as often as possible. I am going to do this until my body can longer cope because I enjoy it, and I’m not thinking about work during this time. While you may love your job, it can become all-consuming, so it’s important to have an outlet completely disconnected from your profession.
7. Find a space and time to get away
While I know that staying physically fit is vital my health and wellbeing, looking after the mind is just as important. I’ve found that in times of working long hours it can be so easy to stop taking time for myself.
While many large businesses today are providing relaxation spaces for staff to get away and decompress for a while, I’ve found it valuable to simply move, get some time outdoors with some sunlight and have the chance to reflect on how things are going.
This process doesn’t need to take a lot of time but I’ve found that finding the space and time each day to pull myself away from the business and run through some important questions can be incredibly powerful. I find it useful to reflect on what’s going well, what needs to change and what items still require follow-through.
This is also particularly helpful at the end of a day as it lays a great foundation for the next.
For more resources on the subject of small business mental health and to learn how many leading bodies and organisations are rallying to add their weight to this important topic, visit our information page on small business mental health.