Saturday, 13 June 2015

Work stress .. let's talk (once more)

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Stress in the workplace is something that affected me very much for a period of about two years and a bit, interspersed with periods of unemployment. I have talked about it quite a bit, as it's a subject that's definitely one of the prime candidates for 'hiding under the carpet' - because people are likely scared of facing up to the truth.

There came a point for me where I had to get out. I was hoping that the most recent of the three stressful jobs might be a bit easier and that I would be able to do a good job and have time and energy to do the things I want .. not a bit of it! It turned out to be even worse than my previous two jobs, and I ended up dreading going to work, barely able to face the day, sometimes having to meditate for two hours. My head was often buzzing from the stress and I'd spend weekends doing my best to recover from the stress of the work week. The day that I found out my brother had died, I had messaged a friend to say that things were getting too much. Obviously, priorities changed during that day, but when I went back to work, my workload was a mess (it always had been to be honest) and my boss was threatening to put extra work on me because she was overloaded with work. I don't blame her at all - far too much work was put on her, I got on well with my boss and she has since left the company too. I was practically in tears on Friday 12th December (I remember the day because it was near my birthday which was Tuesday 9th). To cut a long story short, I decided I couldn't go into work the following Monday, and it was mutually agreed that the best thing would be for me to leave.

Maybe this seems an extreme case, and it's true that I have a lot less tolerance to stressful and highly pressurised environments than a lot of people .. but I wonder just how many people are struggling and suffering in their work, not far from being pushed over the edge. Some of the work culture of today is just sub human, and should not be tolerated in the 21st century. Teachers and nurses (which I think we can all agree are two of the most important professions that exist) are being pushed to breaking point by the targets culture, by cutbacks, and just by generally being expected to do more work than any human being should be reasonably expected to handle. I'm sure I don't need to tell you what I think of the 'high pressure' culture, but I could cheerfully slap someone who says something along the lines of 'You can't take the pressure' in a belittling way. Yeah, you can't take being pushed to your limits, having your brain fried and doing a job that affects your health. Well neither can I. And I think that's fairly sensible.

People are so scared of losing their monthly pay packet, that they'll put up with far too much these days. No one should really be doing work that they don't enjoy and that makes them feel stressed. If the job in question is one that you really love - and teaching/nursing often comes into that category - then it's understandable that people might tolerate a little more crap because their job is meaningful. But when you're doing a job that has no meaning and that stresses the hell out of you - well I honestly wouldn't wish it on anyone. There have honestly been times when the biggest challenge in my life has been my job - and it should not be that way.

The question is - how much are you willing to tolerate, and what is the tipping point? It's all very well saying that you should work towards your goals whilst you are doing a far from ideal job, and it would have been better if I were doing that, but the last job totally drained me of energy and I had virtually nothing left to give time to what I wanted. The job was also so poorly paid, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't still harbour a degree of anger towards my previous employers. It was a no brainer to get out of there, and I believe that my physical health would have been under risk if I had stayed there for too much longer.

Sometimes, you just have to trust that life will take care of you, one way or another, when you get to a point where things are intolerable. Of course I'd rather have the monthly salary than the benefits I'm on now, which, by the way, are not easy to live on, whatever the Daily Mail or garbage TV like Benefits Street (which admittedly I have never watched and don't intend to) may have you believe. But we are blessed in the UK to have a system which does look after people to an extent.

I do believe that there is good work out there, and good employers that take care of their stuff, and have reasonable expectations of them. I do believe also that your mindset will help you in terms of getting good work. But it can take time to build up your confidence, particularly after the work environment has given your brain a right hammering. There are far too many employers that should not get away with how they treat their staff. To me, there is no excuse for sub human treatment, even the recession and the 'cutbacks' (which I don't believe are helpful in the long term). And don't even get me started on the government and the DWP. I hope to find and maybe create work I love. It must be possible.

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