Everyone has to deal with stress at work in one form or another. It comes with the territory, but while the pressure of deadlines or problematic clients might not be something that can be escaped, there are definitely additional stressors in the office that should be easily avoided.

According to research by office window blind retailer Direct Blinds, 48% of British employees say that work meetings provide a source of stress on a daily basis which leaves them with anxiety long after they’ve left the office. Apparently, some of the reasons why these employees feel so much pressure includes the fear of being sacked, being humiliated in front of others or appearing inferior in comparison to their colleagues.

The problem is so severe that employees have admitted going to great lengths to deal with these meetings, with a number of them even choosing to avoid them altogether by having a sick day.

Ways that people have dealt with this stress range from taking more cigarette breaks in meetings to hiding perspiration through lighter clothing, but by far the worst and most concerning is choosing to quell their nerves with alcohol. Even if this helps to lower their stress levels, it will have an adverse effect on concentration and productivity and will not be a lasting solution for the problems they’re suffering with at work. What’s more, the impairment that alcohol has on judgement can lead to employees having an outburst at the people causing them stress, leaving them with no job to turn up to in the morning when they’re nursing a hangover.

Other factors influencing stress are also related to the current trend of open plan office design; something that we’re well aware comes with its share of downsides. This style of office layout lacks the privacy that individuals yearn for when they’re highly stressed, forcing them to become more anxious as they struggle to deal with the feeling of all their colleagues’ eyes on them. A quarter of the respondents to the survey said their nerves were worsened by having meetings that weren’t in private, something that is especially prominent in open plan offices. The only type of meeting that respondents said caused more anxiety was those in a public setting.

“Daily meetings, love them or hate them, are just a part of everyday office life,” says David Roebuck, the managing director of Direct Blinds. “Sometimes they’ll be productive, others they’ll seem like a drag.

“It’s shocking to see that almost half of people say they get nervous before these meetings, however. Even more so the fact that people are prepared to go to such lengths in order to avoid or offset any stress from meetings is concerning – no one should have to fear going into work.”

Several respondents of the survey elaborated on particular instances in the workplace that had led to an increase in stress. They mentioned comments that had been made in meetings, which included people being told to “shut up and make coffees” and being asked “who are you?”

Other instances included a member of staff being questioned over whether their grandmother was actually dead after returning from compassionate leave, and one woman who was asked whether she was pregnant when calling in sick.

Some of these comments sound too unbelievable to be real, but they’re being made on a daily basis in many offices around the country. Given the pressure already on everyone’s shoulders because of the work they’re doing, situations like this can only prove to damage the company. Stressed employees will make themselves ill and hinder the level of productivity in the office, with the fear of going into work every day likely to push them to find a new job.

“That so many people are suffering this anxiety could be having a negative effect on their performances and most importantly, their health in the workplace, particularly for people early in their careers,” continues Roebuck.

The survey found that 52% of workers below the age of 34 had professed to dealing with immense stress because of pressures like needing to make a good impression at the start of their career and the competitive nature of postgraduate work. This makes millennials the generation most likely to suffer from anxieties during meetings, something that should be a huge concern given that’s what a lot of the workforce will be made up of in the coming years.

Reducing the stress surrounding work meetings should be fairly simple, especially as this post shows what it is that’s causing the problems. There are also other ways that the feeling of stress can be diminished outside of what’s been discussed here to try and ensure that you’re staff are as happy as they can be while under your employment. Although removing stress completely from the workplace is basically impossible, employees shouldn’t be afraid of the people they work with to the point that it drives them to drink.

James Darvill

James is a passionate scriptwriter and reluctant poet with a talent for the dystopian. When he’s not staying up late watching the Simpsons he’s beating the world at Mario Kart, always with a glass of wine in hand.
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