What Does the War in Ukraine Have to Do With Worker Safety?
Last month, we talked about stress and anxiety for workers on construction sites, but it most certainly is not limited to these individuals. You cannot help but hear, when you turn the news on at night, or listen to the radio, or look at social media, the harrowing details of the war in Ukraine as Russia attempts to overthrow the current government. The bombings, the bloodshed of Ukrainian citizens, and the mass exodus from this country under siege are horrific. This directly affects us as individuals; we are heartbroken and angry and are at a loss of what we can do to help.
This, coupled with the last couple of years of the Covid pandemic, inflation at an all-time high, and gas prices soaring, places us under A LOT of stress. This stress can be transferred from the home into the workplace and can drive injuries up. Why? Primarily, it’s a state of mind. If you are stressed, you may be distracted, more fatigued, or simply become complacent due to thoughts drifting to the issues that are affecting this country on a daily basis. This, added to the normal daily stress of your job, is a recipe for accidents, injuries, and even health issues like anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system.
What is the solution? While there is no magic bullet to eliminate stress, we recommend the following (and talking to your employees about this as well):
Develop healthy responses. Instead of attempting to fight stress with fast food or alcohol, do your best to make healthy choices when you feel the tension rise. Exercise is a great stress-buster. Also, make time for hobbies and favorite activities. Getting enough good-quality sleep is also important for effective stress management. Build healthy sleep habits by limiting your caffeine intake late in the day and minimizing stimulating activities, such as computer and television use, at night.
Establish boundaries. In today’s digital world, it’s easy to feel pressure to be available 24 hours a day. Establish some work-life boundaries for yourself. That might mean making a rule not to check email from home in the evening or not answering the phone during dinner. 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 and the stress that goes with it.
Take time to recharge. To avoid the negative effects of chronic stress and burnout, we need time to replenish and return to our pre-stress level of functioning. This recovery process requires “switching off” from work by having periods of time when you are neither engaging in work-related activities nor thinking about work. When possible, take time off to relax and unwind, so 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.
Learn how to relax. Techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, and mindfulness can help melt away stress. Start by taking a few minutes each day to focus on a simple activity like breathing, walking, or enjoying a meal. The skill of being able to focus purposefully on a single activity without distraction will get stronger with practice, and you’ll find that you can apply it to many different aspects of your life.
Talk to your supervisor. Employee health has been linked to productivity at work, so your boss has an incentive to create a work environment that promotes employee well-being. Start by having an open conversation with your supervisor. While some parts of the plan may be designed to help you improve your skills in areas such as time management, other elements might include identifying employer-sponsored wellness resources you can tap into, clarifying what’s expected of you, getting necessary resources or support from colleagues, or making changes to your physical workspace to make it more comfortable and reduce strain.
Get some support. Accepting help from trusted friends and family members can improve your ability to manage stress. Your employer may also have stress management resources available through an employee assistance program, including online information, available counseling, and referral to mental health professionals, if needed. If you continue to feel overwhelmed by work stress, you may want to talk to a psychologist who can help you better manage stress and change unhealthy behavior.
It is a difficult time for EVERYONE right now. Take the time for yourself to relax, decompress and realign. Make sure you emphasize this to your employees as well. The return on investment from these simple techniques may be worth its weight in gold.