Neil Shah, the chief de-stressing officer at the Stress Management Society spoke to HRreview and told us that we need to reframe the word ‘no’ in the office and start looking at it as a negotiating opportunity.
HRreview: Saying no in a work environment is not always an easy option, how should people deal with this challenge?
Mr Shah: Feeling stress is due to saying ‘yes’ to more than we can cope with. People see saying ‘no’ as a risk. We need to look at this as a negotiating opportunity. You need to ask yourself is it a higher or lower priority than what I am working on at the moment. When we get better at having these conversations we can do better.
HRreview: There are numerous aspects that can help relieve our level of stress: exercise, nutrition and sleep, is there one that we should primarily focus on or do we need to look at it holistically?
Mr Shah: There is no one size fits all solution. We need to look at wellbeing like the carriages of a train, if one carriage comes off the track it can affect the whole train. This is what we call domino derailing.
HRreview: Do you think HR sees stress as a priority in the work environment, as HR has a number of areas it has to manage and consider?
Mr Shah: I would like to say yes, however, it does differ from company to company. Most companies now have a people and culture manager, its like HR 2.0.
Traditionally, stress was not high up on the agenda for businesses at board level, it should be. If the board outline something, then HR will implement it.
HRreview: Due to high stress levels, you attempted to take your own life, how did that lead to the Stress Management Society?
Mr Shah: I did not recognise stress as a mental health issue. Stress is now becoming an easier conversation to have in the office and in general. We are getting there. We want to create a world where we are redundant. The Stress Management Society is dedicated to leading effective change with our approach to recognising and reducing stress and promoting wellbeing.
Darius is the editor of HRreview. He has previously worked as a finance reporter for the Daily Express. He studied his journalism masters at Press Association Training and graduated from the University of York with a degree in History.