How work affects health and wellbeing

If you’re lucky, you love your job and can’t wait to get to work every day, but for a number of people, working life may have its ups and downs. The benefits of being employed can make us feel connected, provide meaning and can help us with feelings of being part of “something bigger” than ourselves. However, sometimes we might feel that we’ve lost the balance, just a little bit. 

Living a sustainable lifestyle that promotes work-life balance may be a goal for most Australians, but external factors like work could affect our health and wellbeing in potentially negative ways.

According to the Real Concerns Index, work-related issues are some of the biggest concerns for Aussies, with more than half of us (52.5%) working overtime in fear of losing our jobs. What’s more, we worry that our work isn’t paying enough to keep up with the cost of living (74.4%) and we are concerned about the impact of work on our life and wellbeing (60.9%).

So, what are the common causes of work-related stress and what can you do about it?

The four most common causes of work-related stress

There’s no denying that work can have a multitude of positive effects on our wellbeing. It gives us purpose, routine and mental stimulation. It can also improve interpersonal skills, communication techniques and boost our overall self-worth.

The opposite may also be true, however, especially in a challenging work environment. These issues can be compounded by our own worries and concerns, leading to intense work-related stresses. Here’s what Australians are most worried about according to the Real Concerns Index:

  • Lack of wage growth: Nearly three in four respondents (74.4%) believe their job isn’t paying enough to keep up with the rising cost of living, leading to financial woes and stress about the future.
  • Job security: Constant worries about security and stability in the workplace is leading many Australians (60.3% of respondents) to work overtime for fear of losing their jobs.
  • Work’s impact on regular life: Three in five respondents (60.9%) said the impact of work on their life and wellbeing was a major concern, with long work hours and long commutes being common indicators of poor work-life balance.
  • A variety of contributing factors: Respondents cited a range of different worries that begin in the workplace and affect their stress levels, such as increasing pressures to work long hours (59.2%), a lack of support for flexible working environments and hours (47.8%), and an inability or unwillingness to support the needs of a diverse workforce (36.2%).

Five tools to combat a stressful work environment

The good news is that more and more Australians are becoming vocal about how work impacts their mental health, which can not only improve their wellbeing but also the standard of their work. To truly achieve work-life balance, consistency of approach and diversity of tactics are key. Here are some tips to get started:

1. Exercise can stave off the effects of stress

Just 30 minutes of exercise (such as a brisk walk around the park) can be a great pick-me-up, improve your physical health and lead to better mental wellbeing.

2. Self-care: find the ways it can work for you

Self-care means different things for different people. Maybe a weekly yoga session is what helps you unwind best, or a spa day with friends on the weekend. Regular therapy can be a great way to stop all the stresses of your work life from bottling up. Find what works best for you and aim to make it a consistent activity.

3. Quick and easy meditation techniques

Meditation means many things to many different people. Simple breathing exercises and mindfulness techniques can be done at home, during your commute or even on your lunch break at work. You might be surprised how much five minutes away from the screen can help!

4. Practise your communication skills

One of the biggest reasons for stress and worry is that we can bottle up our feelings and frustrations. Communication can be a great release valve, but it does take some practice. Once you get better at communicating your limitations to your boss and colleagues, you will hopefully start to feel the weight of work-related worries lifting.

5. Take some time out when you need it

Work doesn’t need to define who we are as individuals. It can give us the financial freedom to do the things we love and spend time with the people we care about most. With the modern digital environments we all live in, we can find ourselves logging on at all hours of the day and night, missing out on valuable family (or ‘me’) time. Check yourself before you hit the early stages of burnout and practise work-life balance by simply being disciplined about when you need to really switch off.

Work-related stress, concerns about our job stability, and worries about the future are all normal parts of being a working adult. However, with a few helpful strategies, you can reduce the worries of your job and strive for that all-important work-life balance.

Work-life balance can be hard to achieve, and over the course of our lives, things always change, including our (and our family’s) needs. Having said that, the rewards of finding a greater balance are priceless.

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