Many workplaces around the world are experiencing staff shortages due to an increased incidence of absence because of illness. Australia and New Zealand are no exception.
Data obtained from MYOB indicates that absence because of illness is increased by 33% compared with long-term averages. 
In many instances this can cause organisations’ productivity to reduce; and in many cases employees who are well enough to work, find themselves taking on their ill colleagues’ work for extended periods.
This may have led to the 10% increase in employees suffering from burnout during the first quarter of 2022 according to an Employee Sentiment Index by ELMO. Burnout is often caused by prolonged stress.
Indeed, global studies have noted an increase in the number of people experiencing stress as a consequence of the pandemic.
So if you are experiencing stress at work what can you do to protect your health and wellbeing?
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare  defines stress as: “a common and normal physical response to challenging or new situations. Stress has both mental and physical aspects and can be triggered by different life experiences.
Stressors can be external (from environment, psychological or social situations) or internal (for example, illness)”
The point where stress is no longer productive is different for everyone . You might lookout for these signs:
feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope
feeling uneasy or unable to stop worrying
changes in sleep patterns or feeling exhausted
changes in appetite
headaches, muscle tension, or an upset stomach
low mood, irritability, or anger
withdrawal from friends and family
abusing alcohol or other substances more than usual
Exercise. If you do nothing else do this. Exercise helps to metabolise stress hormones that are released during periods of stress. Even small amounts of exercise can be beneficial. A little is better than nothing.
Deep breathing. Also called diaphragmatic breathing, is handy because you can do it anywhere and any time. It’s good to practice it while you are falling asleep or noticing unusually high levels of stress.
Muscle relaxation. Stretching or tensing then relaxing your muscles, particularly those holding your tension can help relieve both physical and psychological stress. Try tensing and then relaxing your jaw, your shoulders and your hands.
Eat well. The relationship between stress and nutrition is complex, particularly when stress affects most people’s appetite and influences food choices. Good nutrition has a positive effect on mood and ability to concentrate.
Rest. A good night’s sleep can make stress easier to manage. It’s important to plan a break away from regular stressors frequently, like a holiday. Including short rest periods in every day is also helpful for managing stress.
Make time for enjoyable activities. Sometimes this is the first thing to go when dealing with stressful periods; but it is important to have regular enjoyable activities such as sport, hobbies and social activities. These create important social connections that can buffer against stress, as well as mood-lifting activities.
Seek help. Sometimes the stress you need to manage will exceed your ability to manage it. It’s important to know when to seek help. Your GP is a good place to start or call your EAP on 1800 629 277 in Australia and 0800 327 669 in New Zealand.
1. Australia COVID: Cases and isolation push staff absenteeism up by one-third (afr.com)
2. Nearly half of Australians suffer from burnout, says new ELMO report | HRD Australia (hcamag.com)
3. Prevalence of stress, anxiety, depression among the general population during the COVID-19 pandemic: a systematic review and meta-analysis | Globalization and Health | Full Text (biomedcentral.com)
4. Job Burnout; Christina Maslach, Wilmar B. Schaufeli, Michael P. Leiter; Annual Review of Psychology 2001 52:1, 397-422
5. Mental health services in Australia: Stress and trauma - Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (aihw.gov.au)
6. Stress - normal versus problematic, fight or flight | healthdirect
7. Stress: Ways to Manage and Reduce It (webmd.com
8. Good mood food – how food influences mental wellbeing | Queensland Health