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stressed man at desk

Tips for Managing Stress at Work

June 04, 2014

This year’s IT Stress and Pride survey revealed that 31 percent of IT pros say the work they’re currently doing is the most stressful of their career. Managing and keeping up with organizational requests and workloads rose as the top stress factor from last year’s spot at #No. 3. While it’s unrealistic to think you will never experience stress at work, there are a few things IT professionals can do to reduce their stress levels and avoid the last resort of looking for a new job. Making sure your job stress is manageable starts before you even accept a job offer. Here are two tips:

  • Do your homework. Before even interviewing for a job, prepare yourself and see what you might be getting into with a company. Use online resources like LinkedIn, Facebook, Glassdoor, etc. to get a feel for what people are saying about the company and what working there is like. While you won’t get specific insight into how much stress to expect at a workplace, you should be able to gauge how happy people are—two things that go hand-in-hand. Also, see if you know anyone who has worked there before, as firsthand accounts from friends or professional contacts are the best resources to leverage for information about a company.

  • Use the interview as an information gathering session. This is your opportunity to ask as many questions as possible about the work environment. For example, what time do most team members arrive and leave on a normal day? How many projects are team members working on at any given time? Do team members help each other out with project tasks? What is the communication on the team like—are team members able to provide feedback up the chain of command/voice their concerns to their manager? These are all questions that will give you some insight into how a normal work day would function. If team members often stay past 5:00 p.m., or whenever everyone is allowed to leave, it may indicate they have quite a few projects going on.

After accepting a job, it’s up to you to take your work rhythm into your own hands. A few practical tips include:

  • On-the-job time management. Once you’re hired, it’s your responsibility to effectively manage your workload. Before you leave for the night, set up your plan of attack for when you arrive the following morning—writing down what you have to tackle and the order you need to tackle it in can give you peace of mind once you leave the office. This is essential to keeping stress at normal and below-normal levels. Reading articles on time management tips and asking efficient peers how they structure their day’s tasks can also help you figure out the best way to manage your time.

  • Communication is king. Communicate constantly and ask for help sooner rather than later. Whether stress is due to a mental block causing you to struggle to make progress on a task or your workload is simply insurmountable, use your voice and communicate with your colleagues and/or manager. Ask your colleagues to help brainstorm ideas if you’re stumped, or if you just have too much on your to-do list, go to your manager and ask for help prioritizing your workload. This will help ease your anxiety and keep you moving forward, rather than letting the stress bog you down.

  • Know where your career is going. Make sure you communicate with your manager to ensure your career path is clear and you have different milestones in place. This will help keep you sane when stress starts creeping in because you will be able to envision that next level and know everything you’re working on is what will get you there. Also, don’t wait for formal performance reviews to get feedback. Be proactive in getting feedback so you can make changes faster and keep making progress toward your goals.

Work will never be 100 percent stress-free, but being proactive and self-disciplined will help you manage your workload to minimize negative stressors and reach a sweet spot of eustress, the positive stress that motivates and drives us to achieve.

Want to read more? Prep yourself for the next step: Career Hacker: Want a promotion? Find out what people think of you, or pick up some Fresh tips for preparing for your next IT job interview.

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