Fighting back against workplace stress

With workplace-related stress and mental health issues becoming an increasing concern across the country, it’s no surprise that the Westfield Health’s Wellbeing Index found that over a quarter (28%) of working adults have experienced stress or pressure that has reached unmanageable levels at work, says Richard Holmes, director of wellbeing at Westfield Health. Time to fight back!

Stress is a natural part of working life but there are certain professions where it is significantly higher. The healthcare sector is one of the most high pressure industries around, with 55% of GPs experiencing stress and burnout from work and according to the Society of Occupational Medicine; GPs are more vulnerable to experiencing burnout, work-related stress and common mental health problems than other fields of medicine.

GPs are more vulnerable to experiencing burnout, work-related stress and common mental health problems than other fields of medicine.

It’s never been more important for practice managers and GP partners to put methods in place to look after their colleagues and to adopt methods to help them combat stress. Here are some practical ways you can fight back against workplace stress.

  1. Offer flexible working

At a time when many GPs work long hours during the week while more people are calling for surgeries to be open seven days a week, flexible hours can really improve stress levels. As stated in the NHS Long Term Plan, the health service is currently working towards offering better access to flexible working. This creates a great opportunity for practice managers to work with all the medical professionals in their teams to create a flexible schedule that works for everyone.

Whether it’s allowing certain employees to only work mornings, or offering team members the chance to work around childcare, flexible working gives people the chance to create a schedule that works for them and helps to limit longer hours and burnout.

  1. Conversations are crucial
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Even if an individual takes time off work, coming back to the intense environment in many practices can leave medical professionals vulnerable to stress and burnout. Practice managers and GP partners should try to keep an ‘open door’ policy so that colleagues feel able to have a discussion if needed.

A simple conversation can help employees feel listened to and supported, and help to reduce the stigma around overworking and the perception of not being able to cope. Being open, and letting colleagues know that you are there to support them, will help to reduce feelings of stress or anxiety.

  1. Suggest ‘switching off’

According to the BMJ Open medical journal 61% of medical professionals think about work when they go to bed. Practice managers and GP partners should emphasise the importance of switching off while away from work and taking time out.

Whether it’s having an early night, taking up a hobby or simply spending time with family this will help medical professionals take a much-needed break from workplace pressures. It should be kept in mind that individuals deal with pressure and stress differently, so employees shouldn’t be pushed into taking a break – it should instead be suggested.

  1. Create a strong team

Although practice managers should understand the importance of their efforts when it comes to supporting employees, a strong team is crucial. People don’t always feel able to talk to senior team members, so creating a supportive culture, where colleagues feel able to go to each other, is vital.

This can remain in the workplace or could be encouraged to extend beyond that with colleagues meeting up for lunches or doing team-building after work. Having a strong network of people who understand the experiences of others will keep the practice running smoothly and help to reduce feelings of stress or isolation.

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