News & Notes from IACC
Collect Money, Not Stress: Pointers For Reducing Stress in the High-Pressure World of Commercial Collections
Stress is a natural component of any workplace, but the performance demands within a commercial collection setting can feel unsurmountable. Pressure from tight deadlines, mounting collection assignments, long hours, and interoffice competition, to name a few, can test the mental health of both employees and managers. A little bit of stress can be good, leading to focused productivity among workers. Yet, too much stress can be toxic and a hazard to employee health and wellbeing. To help keep workplace stress in check, the American Psychological Association and the Mayo Clinic have each compiled important tips for alleviating workplace stress.
Track Stressors and Develop Healthy Responses
Experts agree that identifying the areas and situations at work that cause the most stress and how you respond to them can go a long way towards alleviating the issue. Situations and events that might be a stressor to you may have little to no effect on your colleagues, while the opposite may be true as well.
Start by tracking your stressors over a two week period. Record when it happens, who was involved, what your reaction to the situation was and how it made you feel. You may be able to identify patterns among your stressors and your reactions to them.
Once you’ve figured out the root causes of your stress, try to find ways to resolve the issue.
“Suppose, for instance, that you're behind at work because you leave early to pick up your son from school. You might check with other parents or neighbors about an after-school carpool,” according to the Mayo Clinic. “Or you might begin work earlier, shorten your lunch hour or take work home to catch up in the evening.”
Making healthy choices to combat stress can also be very helpful. Getting enough good sleep, limiting time on electronics, exercise and making time for hobbies and your favorite activities outside of work can be great stress-busters.
Sharpen Your Time Management Skills
If it feels like you’re always falling behind at work and always under pressure to try to catch up, it may be associated with how you manage your time. Setting realistic goals about how much you can accomplish in a day and making a list of priorities can go a long way toward addressing the problem.
At the same time, know when to block your time to work on an important or especially difficult project. Breaking a challenging project into smaller pieces can make it appear more manageable and easier to accomplish.
Managers can help struggling employees by offering to set aside time on a regular basis to go over what’s coming up on their schedule. They can then begin to show their employees how to prioritize their project workload. Plus by knowing what’s on each of their employees’ plates, it can help managers delegate responsibility more efficiently.
“Healthy employees are typically more productive, so your boss has an incentive to create a work environment that promotes employee well-being,” according to the American
Psychological Association. “Start by having an open conversation with your supervisor. The purpose of this isn't to lay out a list of complaints, but rather to come up with an effective plan for managing the stressors you've identified, so you can perform at your best on the job.”
In addition to helping better structure your time, managers can refer you to employer-sponsored wellness resources and/or get you the resources and “support from colleagues, enriching your job to include more challenging or meaningful tasks, or making changes to your physical workspace to make it more comfortable and reduce strain,” the American Psychological Association states.
Establish Boundaries and Find Ways to Recharge
In our digital world, the office is never more than a few clicks away. Whether you’re checking email late at night or answering calls from the office at the dinner table, without establishing boundaries, you can fall prey to never disconnecting for work. “Although people have different preferences when it comes to how much they blend their work and home life, creating some clear boundaries between these realms can reduce the potential for work-life conflict,” states the American Psychological Association, “and the stress that goes with it.”
In the same vein, don’t forget to disconnect completely from time to time. Use your vacation days to recharge and avoid the negative effects of stress. “You come back to work feeling reinvigorated and ready to perform at your best. When you're not able to take time off, get a quick boost by turning off your smartphone and focusing your attention on non-work activities for a while,” according to the American Psychological Association
Know When to Seek Help
Mental health is important and knowing when to seek professional help can save your life. If you’ve tried incorporating these tips into your daily routine and it still feels like nothing is helping, it may be time to reach out to talk to a doctor.“Consult a mental health provider — either on your own or through an employee assistance program offered by your employer,” according to the Mayo Clinic. “Through counseling, you can learn effective ways to handle job stress.”