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Career Center: How to Handle Stress

By Kathleen Furore

So many people I speak with – no matter their age – are feeling anxious and stressed about work (and many times about life in general). Obviously, this can affect their on-the-job performance, no matter how hard they try to keep up appearances and productivity. How can someone in this situation handle it with their employer in a way that won’t put them at risk of a bad review or worse?

Data shows that stress and anxiety are, unfortunately, alive and well in the workplace.

Employees in Chicago are just one example: A recent survey by Robert Half found that Chicago workers reported their level of burnout to be 5.97 on a scale of 1 to 10 – 1 being not at all burned out, 10 being completely burned out. That’s just a bit higher than the U.S. average of 5.6, according to Michelle Reisdorf, regional vice president of Robert Half in Chicago, who says that unmanageable workload/long hours, constant interruptions/fires to put out, and career stagnation/no room for growth were top causes of burnout for Chicago workers.

“If an individual is caught in a cycle of excessive stress and overexertion, constantly feeling anxious or other negative emotions, burnout can develop,” Reisdorf says.

So what’s a stressed-out employee to do?

“If you’re experiencing burnout or workplace anxiety on a regular basis, don’t suffer in silence. Many companies provide internal resources where you can seek help,” advises Reisdorf, who says checking with your HR department to see if the company offers counseling or other services is a good place to start.

But what about that conversation with your manager?

“If you’re working as hard as you can and still feel buried, talk to your manager. Seek advice on meeting expectations and discuss possible solutions to alleviate the pressure you’re feeling, such as adjusting deadlines or delegating,” Reisdorf explains. “Your manager can’t help you if they are not aware of the problem.”

Does the idea of talking with the boss cause anxiety? If so, “take a step back and prepare,” Reisdorf says. “Think of what you’ll say and how you’ll say it – you don’t want to appear frazzled, make excuses or point fingers at others. Gather all the facts – take stock of your late nights, extra assignments and expanding responsibilities – and make a list.”

Taking those steps will ensure you’ll be able to calmly explain how you’re feeling about your workload and offer potential remedies.

“For instance, if working remotely would help, see if your manager is open to allowing you to work from home periodically,” Reisdorf suggests. “Another option is to request a more flexible schedule, where you can start your workday earlier or later as needed. Your manager will likely want to assist in any way possible, but it’s up to you to take the first step and ask for help.”

– Kathleen Furore is a Chicago-based writer and editor who has covered personal finance and other business-related topics for a variety of trade and consumer publications. You can email her your career questions at kfurore@yahoo.com.

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