Transition periods can be particularly stressful for those ‘in the trenches’ - the HR professionals and leaders who are preparing for and implementing organisational changes. Many will find themselves feeling stressed and overworked, with too much to do in too little time. Understandably, this begins to take its toll as time goes on. Stress, when not managed properly, can impact our work performance, personal lives and sleep patterns, as well as our physical and mental well-being. If the stress felt is due to a long-term change project, employees are likely to come out at the other side feeling drained and depleted.
Successful organisational change projects are the result of a concerted team effort. This is an important time to take care of yourself and ensure you can positively contribute to your team during this stressful time.
Here are some tips on looking after yourself during a restructure:
- Eat well, exercise and drink plenty of water: Busy, stress-filled days means eating on the run or not at all, skipping exercise in favour of ticking more things off your to-do list and drinking several coffees to 'keep you going'. What many people fail to remember during this time is that in the long run, you will almost cetainly feel worse for these activities and are more likely to end up sick and needing time off to recover! This may seem like an obvious tip but many people report that after a restructure they have worked long hours and neglected spending time on the things that make them feel good physically and mentally. Get out of the office during lunch – even if it's just for a 10 minute walk. You'll feel refreshed and more productive in the afternoon.
- Be aware of your self-talk: You are what you think. Be conscious of your thoughts and be aware of any negative thought patterns that may be creeping in. If you do find yourself having more negative thoughts, reflect on why this is and implement a strategy to turn these thoughts around. Focus on your strengths, skills, capabilities and achievements. At the end of the week, instead of worrying about what hasn't been done, switch to focusing on how much you have achieved. Also be aware of the company you keep during this time. If you spend time with people who have negative opinions regarding the change, try not to let these rub off on you.
- Attitude of gratitude: During this time of change, you may be required to have difficult conversations or deal with disgruntled or upset employees. At this time, it is particularly important (for you and those around you) to look for the positive in situations and people. If you find yourself being dragged into pointless negative conversations, try to avoid these situations and the people who tend to bring you down. Start to adopt an attitude of gratitude and notice the positive things that occur during your day, even if it was a tough one!
- Change is the only constant: Change is the norm for today's organisations. Increased competition means that many companies are forced to change quickly and often to survive. As a result, there is no point avoiding change or resisting it. A more effective way to handle change is to prepare yourself mentally for the inevitable changes that are likely to occur.
- Focus only on what you can control: When we focus on what we can control, we tend to derive more satisfaction and a sense of achievement. If you find yourself focusing on things you can't control (like how long a transition is taking or how it is impacting your role or the role of others), try to switch to focusing on things at work you can control. Areas within your control may include completing individual projects, continuing to build and foster relationships within your team and maintaining a positive attitude.
- Maintain your productivity: Often during a transition, productivity can dip as people wonder, "What's the point, will I even have a job tomorrow?" Maintaining a motivated attitude to your work will help you to maintain self-esteem and a sense of purpose throughtout the change project. You can also demonstrate your value to the company by showing your commitment to doing a great job, even through tough times.
- Share the burden: Often HR professionals and leaders find organisational change particularly tough because they are privy to confidential information that may negatively affect their colleagues and friends. Finding someone to talk to can help – either a close friend, a family member, EAP provider or psychologist.
- Respect your own time and the time of your loved ones: When you respect your own time, it is more likely others in the organisation will respect it also. Schedule meetings during your work hours, not your personal time. Restrict your overtime hours and speak to your manager if demands are unreasonable. If you frequently work late, try leaving on time at least a couple of times a week. Finally, avoid checking your email or answering work calls out of hours - this creates an expectation with your colleagues that you are avaiable around the clock. Instead, iuse your time at home to recharge and enjoy the time of friends and loved ones.
Whilst most change projects have some degree of stress, we don't always have the luxury of setting our own workloads and deadlines, or the ability to change the workplace culture. However, as you can see above there are strategies available to everyone to manage and reduce their own stress levels, as well as finding a positive work-life balance.