Where do we go from here?

Carola Kleinschmidt

Author and trainer Carola Kleinschmidt – A way out of the daily madness.

According to the World Health Organisation, stress will account for one in two causes for being off work by the year 2020. Is chronic stress becoming a normality? It is high time we sorted ourselves and then our working environment out, claims author and trainer Carola Kleinschmidt.

Mrs Kleinschmidt, you state in your book* that: today’s working environment is driving people to mental exhaustion. What is stressing us so much?

Major stress factors are your work and the high demands you make on yourself. Anyone who can’t meet demands, is always driven and gets little recognition will react by becoming stressed. You are no longer able to enjoy pleasure or success – and chronic stress makes many people ill at some point.

Stress, burn-out, depression: Are these a sign of the times?

Digitalization is causing upheaval across whole industries and our understanding of the world of work is being challenged. Many people see this as an opportunity for their personal development but others see it as an existential threat. This is nothing new – there have been turning points like this again and again throughout history. In the past, people confronted with the steam engine, conveyor belt and mobility had to adapt and certainly experienced stress as a result. These days we have to deal with the tide of emails and robots for colleagues. A further stress factor is the inner drive to achieve in term of your job, family and hobbies. We now have more options for shaping our private and professional lives than ever before. We need to learn how to deal with the new normality without exhausting ourselves.

Is there a sure-fire recipe for a stress-free life?

First of all, we all need to develop an inner attitude to what we expect from life. What is essential? What can we do without? Is the family ready to deal with the consequences? You can then try to adapt your daily life to this new attitude. In extreme cases, this can mean changing your job. Greater clarity about what causes us stress and how to achieve a healthy balance – in schools, student counselling, job centers and throughout your professional career – this would be a good way of preventing stress. The way people think is changing. Protection from mental stress is enshrined in the German Health and Safety at Work Act and stress-related illness is recognized as an occupational illness in Sweden. More and more people are questioning what they are doing – making a conscious effort to achieve a balance between activity and relaxation.

Flexi-time, home office, job-sharing: Aren’t companies already doing enough to give their employees a decent work-life balance?

Innovative working methods won’t achieve anything if they simply shift stress factors from the professional to the private sphere. This is sadly often the case. These days it’s quite normal to put your whole personality into your job. If individual personality is what drives the workforce, it needs to be looked after. Managers need to introduce some parameters for their employees: Allow freedom, flexibility and autonomy but offer safety and support at the same time. Professional development costs time and money – but really pays off in the form of better results and happier and healthier employees.

*Hans-Peter Unger, Carola Kleinschmidt: “Bevor der Job krank macht: Wie uns die heutige Arbeitswelt in die seelische Erschöpfung treibt – und was man dagegen tun kann” [“Before our jobs make us ill: how today’s world of work is driving us to mental exhaustion – and how we can act against it”].

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Picture Credits: © Beata Lange