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Workplace Stress

Wellbeing in the work place is incredibly important, to highlight this, I will tell you my story.   

I was working in a fast-paced office environment, constantly juggling various aspects of my job.  It was the sort of job where the more work you do the more you get.  I don’t like having huge piles of work in front of me, I find it quite stressful, luckily, I had a really good manager.  At one point in my working life here we came to the agreement that I would mention when I felt overwhelmed with work and she would give me space to catch up.  It worked really well under this system and I felt that I had complete control over my work and was able to help others out at times also.  A win all round really.  

Unfortunately, everything changed.  I was asked to move to another team, a team where my new manager had a bit of a reputation.  At first it was fine, I got through the work quickly and in addition I had a designated trainer and training time which I hadn’t had before.  I thought everything would be ok.   Then the workload started to pile up.  I told my manager that I just had too much work on my desk.  She agreed to not give me new work so that I could catch up only to continue to give me new work anyway!  This continued for a while, my stress levels soared.  I didn’t notice it at first, the feelings of stress became my new normal and I started to get physically ill.  As soon as I had gotten over one illness I’d have another straight away. 

I couldn’t take sick leave because I was expected to be a “team player” and was given work that others needed help with when they went on holiday.  I was so busy that I didn’t notice that no one was helping me.  I increased my hours to try and catch up.  By the end I would consistently have had 3 weeks worth of urgent work on my desk and phone calls on a regular basis chasing for updates and completion dates. 

I had no choice but to see my doctor.  I had told my manager several times that I had too much work and my colleagues had also spoken to her about my stress levels.  The doctor signed me off sick.  I went from working almost 10 hour days to having nothing to do for 3 weeks.  I hated it, I did not know what to do with myself. Because I had been working so much I had no work life balance so no hobbies to fill my time. 

I went straight back to work after the sick leave ended.  It was difficult because the slightest thing would make me cry and I did not want others to see this.  Managers were supposed to provide reasonable adjustments so that you could work, my manager took this to the extreme.  I was told that I must tell her what sort of day I was having every single day (no thanks) and pressure was put on me to take medication.  I was sent on a stress course, it was a good course but after speaking to the person running the course I realised I had no other option than to take more time off sick. 

During this time of leave I met with some of my colleagues and had some meetings with others in the organisation and managed to get moved to a different team on my return.  I did really well in this team for a while, but then my personal life got rather difficult.  My resilience was low after my experience at work and I had even more time off sick.  I had requested a reduction in hours but didn’t get any advice of how to go about this since I had no children, flexible working was apparently not available for me as it was officially only for families! 

Eventually I left this job and struggled to put my life together.  The effects of poor wellbeing at work do not end when you leave a job, they impact your entire life.  Thankfully I realised that I’m rather strong and the life I have now is so much better than before.  The experience allowed me to evaluate what was important and I started many hobbies, I learned about wellbeing, managing emotion and, most importantly, self- respect.  I am no longer fighting for my career, I have qualifications that may no longer have any use to me, but I’ve learnt that there are more important things in life.  I fulfilled many dreams, I learnt to sew, play the clarinet and met some wonderful people that I wouldn’t otherwise have met.  I do believe that if my managers had worked together with me rather than against me that I would have continued to be a valued employee, I would not have needed time off, putting even more pressure on those around me.