Office management
Anastasiya Shulyarenko
January 17, 2020
8 min

5 Most Common Stressful Situations Office Managers Face And How To Deal With Them (Managing Work Anxiety)

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5 Most Common Stressful Situations Office Managers Face And How To Deal With Them (Managing Work Anxiety)

Anastasiya Shulyarenko
November 10, 2020
How To Deal With Anxiety And Stress If You Manage An Office | Hoppier

Our bodies and minds are designed to perform under stress to some degree. However, prolonged stress can take its toll and lead to anxiety. Work anxiety is a big issue and understanding how you can deal with anxiety in healthy ways is your key to dealing with stress at work. Four in five office workers experience burn out, so it's important to equip yourself with strategies to deal with anxiety and stress in the workplace. In this article, we’ll go over some of the most common stressful situations you may deal with at work and help you find simple steps you can take to cope with them. 

Stress Can Be Positive...Sometimes

This may come as a surprise, but a little stress can sometimes be good. How you may ask? Researchers found that, brief periods of stress can be beneficial. Short bursts of stress can help with attention by keeping people focused and motivated. It can help you adapt to situations quickly and even boost memory. As an office manager, some stress can help push you to perform in new and better ways. However, it's no surprise that too much stress for too long can become problematic.

Woman in glasses sitting at a desk and biting a pencil while looking at the screen.
Image source: unsplash.com

The Impacts of Work Anxiety

Anxiety often hinders workers’ productivity and engagement. A surprising 94% of American workers report they have experienced stress at work. It causes about one million people to miss work each day. However, stress, including anxiety at work, has various detrimental symptoms. These symptoms include headaches, insomnia, raised blood pressure, depression, stomach complaints, difficulties concentrating or poor memory and learning coping strategies before stress gets out of hand is key here.

Work anxiety has a negative impact not just on a personal level, but on a company level as well. Some of the most common signs of a stressful work environment include:

●  Absenteeism: Stress is frequently reported as being the main reason for sickness absence.

●  Labor turnover and retention: Stressed employees are more likely to resign, especially if they find a position with less stress.

●  Performance and productivity: Stressed employees display reduced productivity and poor performance.

●  Low morale and poor motivation: Stressed employees are less engaged in their work and less productive.

●  Increased employee complaints: Employees who experience stress tend to log more complaints to coworkers, family and friends. 

●  Increased numbers of accidents or incidents: Highly stressed workers run the risk of memory loss and issues with concentration, resulting in a higher number of workplace accidents than workers with lower levels of stress.

Other effects of work anxiety are harder to measure. For example, many employees don’t know how to use positive stress management activities, instead, choosing unhealthy ways of handling stress which also limits someone at work. They may hold back on travel opportunities or public speaking. It may also prevent an employee getting involved in the full social and collaborative life of work, such as office parties and events.  

Common Stressful Situations Office Managers Face

According to the World Health Organization, stress can be split into two types: work contents and work context.

Work contents include factors such as the nature of the job, work load, hours, control and participation. Work context includes factors such as pay, development, relationships, culture, leadership and work-life balance. For office managers, there are some common areas causing stress in the workplace. Let’s explore them and look at some healthy stress management activities for each one.

1. Heavy Workloads and Long Working Hours

Office managers are expert multitaskers and typically fall into the cohort of Americans that work more hours than many other nations. This combination of a multi-dimensional role, long hours and and the inability to unplug from your devices can be a recipe for stress. As an office manager, you probably have too many tabs open and running at the same time, both on your computer screen and in your mind.

The good news? There are a few different strategies you can use to help ease the work anxiety that comes with heavy workloads, including:

  • Use automation to reduce time spent on mundane tasks.
  • Speak to your manager about your workload.
  • Delegate tasks to others where possible.
  • Seek support from colleagues and additional training where needed.
  • Learn to prioritize tasks and refine your time management skills.
  • Set boundaries regarding digital use out of work.
  • Be realistic about what you can achieve and be proud of your successes.
Hands using a laptop and a phone at the same time, with a coffee and glasses on each side
Image source: unsplash.com

2. Unrealistic Deadlines and Expectations

As an office manager, you’ve most likely experienced the stress of unrealistic deadlines or expectations and that’s no surprise. According to the WHO, “stress is particularly common in situations when employees are asked to do things that exceed their knowledge, abilities and coping skills.”

Try these strategies to help with the stress of work expectations:

  • Express your concerns to your direct supervisor and let them know how you are feeling. Make sure you bring a solution to the table and have some suggestions on how to make this easier for everyone involved.
  • Seek support from colleagues or other office managers in terms of strategies and support on execution.
  • Plan what needs to be done by making a clear list. Break this down further against the deadline to see if this is reasonable.
  • Consider if the expectations are unrealistic or whether you are under-estimating yourself. Imposter Syndrome can prevent people from having the self-belief to succeed. Take time to celebrate your abilities and evaluate if the issue is one of stretching beyond your comfort zone, or is indeed a case of unrealistic expectations and deadlines.

Remember that your manager is unlikely to intentionally be making life hard for you. You’re on the same side! It is more likely that they don’t realize the other pressures and demands on your time. So make sure to over-communicate and work together.

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3. Interpersonal Relationships and Difficult Colleagues

We don’t generally choose our coworkers, yet we spend more time with the people we work with than our own friends and family! Typically, as an office manager, you're responsible to facilitating communication across all departments and are one of the only people who gets to work with every type of personality in your office. As a result, managing relationships can sometimes be a challenge, especially when it comes to working with positions both up and down the seniority ladder. Conflicts in the workplace can be a real cause of anxiety at work, especially if these difficulties tip over in to bullying or harassment.

A woman and a man looking at a computer screen and talking
Image source: Mimi Thian

Next time you find yourself facing a conflict or miscommunication at work, see if you can pull on some of these tips:

  • Remain calm as this diffuses tension. Foster a blame-free culture.
  • Work to understand the other person’s motivations and intentions.
  • Take the time to over-communicate your concerns with one another in an honest but polite way. Be straightforward, keeping concerns away from the realm of gossip.
  • Invest time in relationships through office social events, shared breaks, and listening to others.
  • Steer and encourage management in the creation of family-friendly policies, employee wellness programs and employee assistance programs.
  • Work on improving your communication skills through courses focused on emotional intelligence.
  • Familiarize yourself with different cultural norms as they often dictate how we communicate.
  • Most importantly, speak up! If your boss or employee is asking for something outrageous, take the time to understand their thought process and explain your side of things.

4. Negative Office Environment

A negative work environment, in terms of the physical space you work in, can contribute to higher levels of work anxiety. Research has revealed that noise levels, access to natural light, ergonomics, and even cleanliness all contribute directly to an employee’s level of stress. If, for example, your office has poor ventilation, then your team may be at risk of developing the  “sick building syndrome” and believe us when we say - it is a real thing! Symptoms include headaches, nausea, difficulty concentrating, and even flu-like symptoms.

As an office manager, there are things you can do impact on the physical experience of your office, including:

Animated office with plants set in different parts of the workplace.
Image source: Hoppier

5. Long Commutes

The average American commutes 50 minutes each day, which can be stressful regardless of the type of transportation you use. Combined with the unpredictability of the road ahead (pun intended), the anxiety of being late to work can impact your mood from the start of your day. Research has shown that a 20 minute decrease in commute times has the same effect on happiness as receiving a 19% raise.

In most cases shortening your commute is probably not an option, but there are some things you can do to make it more enjoyable:

  • Listen to podcasts, audiobooks to help you feel like you're using your commute time productively.
  • Try carpooling with a coworker to help you feel less lonely and prevent you from going too deep in your thoughts.
  • On public transport, read or plan your work day.
  • Openly communicate with management if you need a shift in your start time and see if you can have the flexibility to avoid high-traffic times.
Woman driving in a car with text "please no traffic"
Image source: Giphy

Conclusion

It's important to remember - you can't control your surrounding, but you can manage your personal reactions to things. And in order to benefit your wellbeing and work performance, you have to equip yourself with the tools for dealing with stress. The above strategies are designed to get you started in the most common areas that office managers experience stress.

In addition, in all areas where you experience stress, a simple strategy which can be used is to talk. By sharing your work anxiety with others you can receive support, fresh perspective and encouragement. The ADAA recommends talking to a trusted coworker. You can also share with other office managers and admins through social groups and forums. It may be beneficial to seek professional help and that's totally okay! There are a number of resources available online that won't cost a fortune.

So take a deep breath, fill up a cup of tea and remind yourself - you got this!

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