How to Manage Workplace Stress

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
(William Henry Davies)

I’m writing this blog the old fashioned way; with a paper and pen. I’m also sat on a beach, under a palm tree, the gentle sound of the sea in the background. Not that I’m trying to make you jealous at all. I’m on a well-earned vacation. I’m relaxed. And I am thinking clearly, without distractions or demands on my schedule.

Our working lives are full. We rush from meeting to meeting with no gap in between. Read emails on the go, take calls in the evening and in the car, plan the next day while we lie in bed. Every moment is accounted for, the diary stacked, the demands continuous. This is the life that most of us expect. We don’t question it; it’s just the corporate thing. Join the race and start running.

How to Manage Workplace Stress

At work, there is always something. An email, a voicemail, a text message. An urgent meeting. Someone needing just a minute. The noise of the open plan office. Things to eat into your day, your head space, your thinking time. A distraction around every corner. Think about your last couple of days at work. When did you get a minute, to just think, to get beyond the distractions? To simply be? What do you actually get paid to do anyway? Jump up, jump down, react, be a busy worker bee? Ask yourself. Is that your best contribution, what you really should be doing for yourself, your team, your organization? Time away from work gives you space. Space to think, create, refresh. Just be. Space for new ideas.

I’m guessing that you’ve met a workaholic. You might even be one yourself. Someone who just can’t put the phone down. Has to send one more email. Working into the small hours, the weekend, eating into family time. They think the organization won’t last without them, their team just won’t cope. Holidays are for the shirkers and the slackers. Worse is when the company are driving this culture. Expecting employees to be available, on-call, on demand.

What we don’t always sit back and notice is the effect of all this rushing around on our cognitive function. Concentration drops. Attention decreases. Physical performance diminishes. Studies link excessive working hours to ill-health; increased heart disease, depression, stress. When we are tired, rushing, cramming too much in, fail to take a break, we are not optimal. The brain and body isn’t wired this way. It needs time to recharge, if you want to perform well. So give yourself a rest. Take a vacation. Check your emails just once a day. Take a little exercise and eat good food. Be kind to yourself. Sit by the pool. And just be. You’ll thank yourself for it.

Can you excuse me now, I’m off for a swim.

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Gemma Reucroft

Gemma is a UK based senior HR professional, with a particular interest in leadership development, employee relations and recruitment. Gemma is a Chartered member of the CIPD, is a qualified coach and holds a Masters degree in employment law and employee relations. Now a HR Director in the healthcare sector, Gemma is a HR blogger and tweeter, and you can find her on twitter as @HR_Gem.

Reader Interactions


  1. Laura says

    Hi Gemma, Thanks for a great article and most important great reminders! But I’m a little perplexed that you would be writing this post (even the old fashioned way) while you’re on vacation! Vacation time is a time to relax and forget about work. One of the challenges we have is to really take vacation time seriously. By this I mean, no work, no emails, time to clear the mind of work stuff and just relax. The only time I’ve been able to do this on vacation is by taking one where I don’t have access to email or even my phone! That type of vacation almost forces you to relax which is a great thing! You get back to work recharged and ready to go! I also agree that we forget the importance of eating right and taking time to exersise. Our world is a health food desert so it takes a little extra time to eat right but in the end it will help you to manage stress and also help you to work more productively instead of just additional hours! Working smart and not just putting in hours is the key in my book!! Thanks again for a great post!



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