How do you talk to your manager about stress?

Stress is a very complex concept, particularly when it comes to the world of work. A little bit of pressure or stress can be a great motivator, helping you clear your mind and focus on completing the task at hand quickly and efficiently. However, too much stress and it’s difficult to prioritise competing deadlines and feelings of being overwhelmed and defeated can easily arise.

What’s more, with the current prevalence of remote working, it is easier to feel isolated and like there’s very little support to help you manage projects and responsibilities. The main causes of stress in the workplace include:

– Fear of termination
– Overtime or increased workload due to cutbacks
– Weight of expectation to perform under constantly pressurised circumstances
– Lack of support or communication from management
– New systems and processes
– Business uncertainty due to economic downturn or fluctuation

Talking to your boss or manager to alleviate some of the pressures you feel at work may not seem as simple as it sounds. Stress has become associated with a wide range of mental health issues and unfortunately carries a stigma because of it. However, your employer has a duty of care to ensure your health and safety are protected when working and this extends to mental health as well as physical. This means you shouldn’t feel nervous about speaking up about workloads, discussing alternative workflows, or asking for support from your manager!

Whilst it is true that many people worry about the stigma of poor mental health and often do not wish their personal health issues to be known, it is not acceptable for employers not to recognise this as a major issue. Employers must facilitate an environment where this is acceptable and support is provided.

Signs and symptoms of work-related stress to be aware of

The rate of work-related stress and anxiety is increasing and according to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), 17.9 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety last year. Being aware of the signs and symptoms will help you better manage mental and emotional pressures at work.

When feeling overwhelmed, look out for:

– Fatigue
– Lack of motivation
– Physical symptoms e.g. headaches, change in appetite
– Decrease in productivity
– Feeling irritable
– Drop in quality of work

How to talk to your boss about burnout and stress

Talking to your manager or boss can be a challenging prospect. To help you feel as secure and calm as possible when talking about stress, it can help to do some research and come up with a plan first. In a recent survey, the SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) uncovered that:

– 41% of employees reported feeling stressed, drained, or overworked
– 37% reported having done nothing to cope with these feelings

We have identified five steps you can take to prepare a plan, speak to your boss, and then reassess, refine and develop it so that you and your manager are more prepared to manage stress and burnout in the remote working world.

Identify the source of stress

Your manager will likely be pulled in many different directions and unless you speak up, may not be aware that you are struggling with feelings of stress and burnout, especially with the shift to remote working. When addressing stress with your manager, you’ll need to be specific and provide context to help them better understand the pressures you face. Identify the reasons why you are overwhelmed, such as a heavy workload or unrealistic deadlines, so that you can both get to the root of the problem.

Review company policy

Your company will have a policy in place that dictates how they approach stress and burnout amongst their employees. Managers will be responsible for implementing the necessary resources to support employee welfare, so it would be helpful to familiarise yourself with this content before your meeting.

Create a plan of action

Coming prepared with solutions will show that you are proactive in finding a resolution, reaffirming confidence that you are working towards returning towards a resolution. Not only will this reassure your manager, it will also help you feel more in control of the situation.

Start a conversation with your manager

Make sure you pick a time to have a conversation with your manager when you’re feeling calm, as you will want to make it clear that you are asking for support as opposed to addressing conventional workplace problems.

Remember, your manager has probably felt stressed or burnout at some stage in their career and in most cases, they will empathise with your situation and provide you with a resolution to get you back on track. Transparency is key and when talking with your manager you have the opportunity to set new expectations around workload and work together to devise realistic goals.

Set up a discussion to review outcomes

Ask to book a follow-up discussion to evaluate the changes made and measure the success of its outcomes, so that you can continue the constructive dialogue with your manager and illustrate how your productivity increases when you work together to overcome stress and burnout.

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