When working is stressful ...

Work is an important part of our lives; it gives us a sense of meaning and purpose that leads to psychological health. There are the social aspects too, filling that need for us to ‘belong’ and that we matter to other people. Not to mention, work pays the bills.

There are times when the stress of work becomes counter-productive. There are several reasons for this. Many people, for example, are struggling with the slash and burn culture of modern work, crushed by the weight of the dreaded KPI, and the fear of losing our job. A reasonable response of “I can’t manage that extra work ” can be regarded as a negative character trait or an admission of failure.

All this affects the way we feel about the world and ourselves. This can be the beginning of feeling ‘my life is out of control’. As anxiety increases and confidence in our ability to control events decreases, our self-worth is diminished.

It is often said that the most stressed person in an organization is not the person in charge, but the people under them who are trying to make it all work. It can be good to have a manager with an exciting vision, but “how do all of us make that work?”

In New Zealand last year, a firm trialed a four-day working week. As reported in the media at the time: “Perpetual Guardian (a company that manages trusts, wills and estate planning) founder Andrew Barnes came up with the idea in an attempt to give his employees better work-life balance, and help them focus on the business while in the office on company time, and manage life and home commitments on their extra day off.” It is important to note that the employees continued to receive the same pay. Academics studied the trial before, during and after its implementation, collecting qualitative and quantitative data. After the trial, the company concluded, “it an unmitigated success, with 78% of employees feeling they were able to successfully manage their work-life balance, an increase of 24 percentage points”. However, sometimes this is not possible in a range of work situations. In the end, we have to deal with ourselves.

Counselling can provide clarity and support. It can foster self-worth and self-confidence. It can help re-organize priorities, coming up with strategies to cope with the situation, achieving a better work-life balance. Work stress is a modern phenomenon that has far-reaching effects. It is important to take a sense of control back.

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