To mark International Stress Awareness Week, TTG has gathered tips from the experts on coping with stress in the workplace
Combined with the long hours often endemic in travel, stress can take a serious toll. Symptoms can range from being irritable and not able to concentrate, to headaches, indigestion, problems sleeping, compulsive behaviour and depression.
Aside from the clear health implications, stress is also one of the most common causes of long term sick-leave impacting both the employee and employer, according to Dr Sagar Patel, GP at MyHealthcare Clinic in London.
This week (4-8 November) marks International Stress Awareness week, so we asked medical experts and travel companies for their insight and tips on managing stress at work.
Aside from healthy eating and regular exercise, there are a number of techniques to relieve stress. Guided meditation apps such as Headspace and deep breathing exercises can relieve feelings of anxiety, says Steve Clarke, a psychotherapist and hospital director at the Priory’s Life Works Hospital in Surrey. “Progressive Muscle Relaxation can also be done at any time during the day, which involves tensing and releasing muscles at certain intervals. There are free guided versions available online on YouTube,” he advises.
As soon as you recognise the symptoms of stress, make your body floppy, sit back in your chair and focus on diaphragmatic breathing, says Nick Davies, psychotherapist and hypnotherapist.
“Push your stomach out to breathe all the way down to the bottom of your lungs, hold the breath, then breathe in a way where it’s like you’re letting out a loud sigh for 10 breaths. Focus on a single point,” he advises.
Prevention is far better than cure, however. Planning your week or day ahead and creating a checklist of things that need to be completed by priority can be helpful. “Give yourself enough time to complete each task and schedule regular breaks to avoid burnout. Reward yourself for completing tasks, even if it’s as simple as crossing it off the checklist,” Clark says.
In the long term, it is better to manage stress before becoming overwhelmed, advises Dr Patel. “Setting boundaries, planning ahead and taking time for self- care will all help to make chronic stress more manageable and allow you to find the right work-life balance.”
There are plenty of achievable ways employers can help create a less stressful workplace, from setting manageable tasks and deadlines to training staff to recognise signs of stress and how they can support colleagues, says Patel.
Agents can take inspiration from tour operator Explore, which has implemented policies to promote work-life balance and tackle stress. “Alongside our Company Support Initiative, where we plan events so that staff always have something to look forward to, we also have onsite yoga classes and subsidised massages,” explains Claire Fitzgerald, head of HR.
The operator also has initiatives in place to tackle mental health concerns, which can arise as a result of stress. “We’re in the process of training mental health first aiders and we provide a 24-hour helpline for staff, so that support is there if they need it. We also provide ‘Lunch and Learn’ workshops which cover all sorts of issues, including mental health awareness,” she adds.
Intrepid Travel is another company that has stress-busting incentives on offer including a running club, office massages, flexible working and travel perks. “We make it as easy as possible for staff to take a break and experience our amazing trips. We allow all staff the chance to take an Intrepid trip free of charge each year and offer a generous discount on further trips,” says Natalie Juricic, general manager for people at Intrepid. “Those who take up their free trip are given an extra five days’ annual leave. Those who aren’t able to get away can use those five days for education.”
Promoting a work-life balance is essential, adds Explore’s Fitzgerald. “Work-life balance is something any good company should take into consideration to show their employees that they care about them, rather than being used only as a recruitment tool,” she explains. “The same goes for retaining staff – if your staff feel that their work and personal lives are balanced, they’re more likely to feel satisfied in their role.”
Natasha Ralph, director at National Online Wellbeing Services, gives tips for employers:
Psychotherapist and hypnotherapist Nick Davies gives tips for employees: