We spend a large proportion of our weekday lives working, but how much time do we spend on checking that our job and office environment is working for us? Here are some of the basics. You might find it useful to run an audit to check whether you can make or influence any improvements.
Human beings habituate to situations and can often ignore things which are working against them rather than for them because they have adjusted to them over time. However, even the smallest change in our environment or our attitude towards it makes the situation and our experience of it different. So, if we stand back, we can create an opportunity to make or influence improvements to our advantage: trying different things, evaluating them to see how well they work for us and keeping an open mind to positive change. The overarching principle is that we need to reduce any actual or potential stressors as much as we can and to have effective strategies for managing any residual stressors well. Above all, maintain a positive, compassionate and balanced outlook and expect the best!
Actual or potential stressors: Workspace, colleagues, clients, the work itself and commuting
How conducive is your workspace to working well? This includes the physical comfort, height and support of your chair and a sufficient and uncluttered desk space as well as the acceptable levels of noise around you. Physical tension can translate to emotional tension (and vice versa). Lack of space, clutter and other distractions are stressors and so can interfere with focus and concentration. You might want to look at your immediate office environment with fresh eyes, as though you had just landed there from outer space and had never seen it before. You can be curious about whether there is anything you had never really noticed before which could be changed for the better.
How do you manage relationships with your colleagues and clients? We have all experienced difficult people from time to time, from the chattering gossip to the angry complainant or bully. Cultivating and appreciating our healthy relationships and remaining calm, professional and assertive in all our interactions with others can contain and control the extent of stress caused by difficult people.
What of your actual work? Does it give you a sufficient challenge or sense of achievement most of the time? If not, do you need any additional skills to make it more satisfying or are there any adjustments to your responsibilities and/or office support which would be beneficial? Even things like how you travel to and from work can make a significant difference: this can include the time you set off to or from the office and how you use the travel time to nourish yourself, whether that means talking to others, reading, listening to music or simply paying attention (perhaps in a way which you might not have before) to the sights, sounds and aromas on the journey or maybe something else which appeals to you.
Managing stress caused by work
There are many techniques for managing stress well. Building some relaxation time into every day pays good dividends. This might be using breathing techniques (always breathing deep down, through the nose and with a longer outbreath than inbreath), progressive muscle relaxation (tensing and relaxing each muscle group in turn), listening to a relaxation CD or MP3, or taking some physical exercise, whether at the gym, going for a run or just walking. I have seen so many people who have vastly improved their day and reduced their overall stress levels by taking time either before or after work or during the lunch hour to use one or more of these methods of switching off and creating natural feel-good chemicals. At least 20 minutes is an ideal period of time to dedicate to this type of emotional nutrition.