Bupa Global

Ten ways to reduce
stress at work

Young man on the computer

Treat yourself

Oliver James & Bupa Global share tips on making health, success and happiness top of your agenda for 2016

The New Year is a natural time to reassess your life. Often, though, we focus only on physical fitness when we do this – losing weight, giving up bad habits or joining a gym. But let’s face it, around a third of our lives is spent at work, and how stressful it is, is one of the biggest contributors to our health and wellbeing.

Not only could managing and avoiding stress improve your professional and home life, but it could also help you to live longer. As part of Bupa Global’s commitment on delivering longer, healthier, happier lives, we caught up with leading psychologist Oliver James who told us that the consequences of stress can be very serious indeed:

“There’s very good evidence to show that if you suffer depression or anxiety as a result of stress, it shortens your life. It makes you more prone to heart attacks and other illnesses. And when you’re home you’re more likely to be short-tempered, and you’re more likely to struggle with personal relationships.” (For more information on this, you can read official government findings on the impact of stress at www.hse.gov.uk/stress)

“The fundamental problem is that the vast majority of us now work in sectors where it's really difficult to measure the contributions you're making within your organisation,” Oliver believes. “Whereas, once, you needed to make 100 dolls a day to be paid a certain amount, in this environment, you have to be evaluated by your boss's personal, subjective judgement of the value of your contribution.” 

Office politics, and the stress which comes with it, is one consequence of this subjectivity, as people attempt to influence their bosses’ estimation of their contribution.

Oliver James's top ten tips for workplace wellbeing

Professional woman using laptop computer
  1. Meditate, do yoga or other exercise
  2. Practise mind control – just get up 10 minutes early to find the time
  3. Improve your ability to read others’ moods and body language
  4. Good communication skills are office gold and will make your life easier
  5. Mirror your boss’s behaviour – but do it subtly
  6. Flattery will indeed get you everywhere
  7. Make sure your manager knows your contribution
  8. Don’t worry about others’ pay – just make sure you get a fair share
  9. You need to stay calm, even when others are losing their heads
  10. Develop a work persona: the grown-up, calm version of yourself

So what can you do to relieve stress?

“Whatever your job, whether you’re stressed or not, you can do plenty of mind control exercises like yoga or meditation - even if you can only manage this for a short time, but regularly, it's a fantastic antidote to stress. 

“If you have a higher level of cortisol, you're in a hyperactive state: you can't calm down; you’re constantly expecting to run away or go on the attack. The most practical way to reverse this and reduce cortisol levels - is to practise mind control. Misunderstandings can be poisonous in an office environment, escalating stress levels, says Oliver. “Another great way to reduce stress is to improve your office communication skills.

These break down into several different categories. The first is astuteness; you need to be able to read other people. Practise improving your ability to sense what’s going on in other people.

“Be more effective: you need to try to approach things with a better strategy. Practise reading body language and mirroring when possible – smiling or flattery, for example – those tactics work. They only work if you’re astute, though. Be aware of what tactics to use, on what person, at which moment,” advises Oliver.

Focus on fairness

Bonuses and money can also be a big cause of stress, and Oliver adds: “The great mistake you can make with bonuses is to have a discussion at the point where your boss hands you the envelope. Put the effort in before – make sure your boss grasps and understands what you’ve contributed to the business.

“Don’t worry about what everybody else gets paid – just concentrate on what you’re happy with. There’s a great deal of misery from people worrying about what everybody else is getting; just make sure you’re getting your fair share and that it matches your contribution.

Being your best self

“People engage a lot in what I call ‘I’m OK, you’re not’, where I’m feeling bad, so I make you feel bad, and I feel a bit better, at least temporarily. If you’re at the wrong end of that and somebody’s having a proper tantrum, their responses are clouded by emotion and the level of cortisol means their capacity to think has collapsed. You need to stay calm. If you can stay in a detached, calm state behind a persona you’ve developed for the office, you’ll be much better equipped to cope.”

That detached side of your personality is important to managing stress, and Oliver adds: “You need to develop a persona to deal with your work. It should be based on who you really are, obviously, but you’re always going to be a different person at work than when you’re away from the office, and developing calmer characteristics can help you to deal with other people who are struggling.”

Take good care of yourself: it’s a big, bad world out there, but you do have options to keep happy and healthy.

Join Bupa Global

Global health insurance for globally minded people

Share this: