Workload and Stress Management

Workload and Stress Management

Stress, including work related stress, is something that everyone can feel from time to time. If undetected or not managed correctly it could have a negative impact on both your physical and mental wellbeing. We want to support our community to recognise the signs of stress or a heavy workload and support them to put in place strategies to manage it. Think about...

Can I say no?

For many people saying no doesn’t come naturally, particularly if it is an interesting or exciting opportunity. We would all like to be team players, be helpful, advance our careers. However, when actively managing workloads, it is important to avoid overstretching or becoming stressed or anxious. 

To help manage your workload you may have to be strict and selective in what you say yes to. Use your line manager or a trusted colleague to help you. Before you decide on whether to say yes or no, you may want to consider: 

  1. How does this fit with my current workload – is it additional or essential to fulfil my role? 

  1. How much time will it take?  

  1. How important is it? 

  1. What will happen if I say no?  

  1. Can I juggle priorities or ask for some short-term support from a colleague to free up some time? 

  1. Can I offer an alterative solution?

Perfect V Good (Is good "good enough"?)

Before you commit a lot of time to a project, decide when it will be good enough for review and feedback from others, or the point where you will be satisfied to move on to a different project. Striving for perfection early in a project can be counterproductive, particularly if you will later rely on involvement or feedback from others. Read this article that presents an interesting concept of Good Enough vs Perfection.  

Best practise for effective meetings

For many meetings will be an integral part of your role. However, they can consume a lot of time, require preparation before attending and result in actions to follow-up on.  

Meetings have also evolved in recent years, with some taking place in-person, some online and some hybrid.  

Meeting Timings 

Be mindful of the number and timing of meetings:

  • Core meeting time 09:30-16:30

  • Try to keep Fridays clear of internal meetings across the University wherever possible

  • Teams locally to consider arrangements to keep lunchtimes clear of meetings (e.g. 12:30-13:30)


Arranging a meeting

Before you arrange a meeting be clear on the purpose and intended outcome. Could the same outcome be achieved through an email exchange, a quick call or face to face discussion. If you decide the meeting should go ahead, consider: 

  • Is this a one-off meeting or a recurring one?  

  • Who needs to attend? Make use of the scheduling tool in Microsoft Outlook to check availability before sending the invitation  

  • Avoid scheduling meetings during lunchtime 12.30 – 13.30 and outwith core meeting times

  • Where possible start your meeting 5 minutes past the hour/half hour and finish 5 minutes before the hour/half hour (eg 10.05am-10.55am)  

  • Consider if your meeting can be hybrid to accommodate different working patterns 

  • Visit the Toolkit for further Outlook tutorials

  • Reduce ‘provisional’ meetings and only schedule where essential. Staff should also block time out of their calendar that doesn’t suit.
  • Make yourself aware of the University’s guide on Teams meetings


Meeting Attendance

Make a list of all the meetings you attend using the meeting attendance audit tool, including your role in that meeting, it’s purpose, how it helps you achieve your workload and how useful you find it.  

If you work in a team, do this collaboratively so you can identify ways to help each other – for example, you could send updates via a colleague and take turns attending.  

Some questions to ask yourself when determining if you should attend: 

  • How relevant is this to my job (based on your workload assessment) 

  • Is there an agenda, is it relevant to you and can you contribute 

  • If it’s unclear, ask for clarification on the purpose of the meeting and for some information in advance to help you prepare 

  • What will happen if I don’t attend this meeting?

Email etiquette to support workload and stress management

The introduction of the home working policy and the expansion of our institution internationally has seen many colleagues adapt their working week. This may mean some colleagues work earler in the morning or later in the evening. A hybrid working pattern has become more common - some days in the office and others at home.

Follow the link to view detailed guidance on email but please note that staff are strongly encouraged to avoid sending emails out of hours or at weekends (while recognising that staff need to be able to work flexibly and emails can be written at different times but not sent) unless it is for a genuine emergency.

Please make use of the delay send funtion in Outlook.

It can be helpful to be proactive in communicating your working pattern in your email signature to let colleagues know when you are available. When communicating by email, it’s also good practice to:  

  • Only use CC when necessary. If a colleague is on annual leave or it is not a working day for them, consider removing them from an email chain and updating them on their return 

  • Give a clear description in the subject line helping colleagues understand the purpose of the email 

  • Consider a call or face-to-face chat in place of an email 

  • Keep a tidy inbox by developing a filing system and deleting duplicate emails  

  • Manage expectation with a clear email signature for example: 

I generally work from home on Monday and Wednesday and from the office at all other times. My core hours are 9am - 5pm. If you receive an email from me outwith normal working hours I do not expect a reply until at least the next working day. 

Further guidance on email use can be found on Toolkit.

Maximising MS Outlook

If used optimally, Outlook can assist with workload management. Some things to consider: 

  • ensure your calendar is up to date with appointments and meetings to assist others when trying to schedule time with you 

  • Use categories, flags and My Tasks to help organise your tasks and projects 

  • Block out desk time to focus on project work or travel time between meetings 

  • If you use Outlook on your phone, activate quiet hours so you only get notifications during your working hours 

  • Visit Toolkit for further MS Outlook tutorials. 

Preventing work-related stress

Reasonable pressure at work can be positive and help individuals to thrive. However, work-related stress can occur when pressure exceeds a person’s capacity to cope. The stage at which excessive pressure leads to work-related stress will vary between individuals. Although stress is not a medical diagnosis, where it is prolonged, it can lead to both physical and psychological damage including anxiety and depression. Work-related stress can also aggravate an existing mental health problem, making it harder to control.

Taking a proactive approach in identifying triggers can be beneficial in preventing work-related stress. There are a variety of simple to use tools which can support individuals and managers to do this including a Wellness Action Plan or HSE Stress Talking Toolkit. It is good practise to complete one of these tools annually and revisit it regularly throughout the year, perhaps as part of an annual review and regular one to one meetings. 

If you suspect or know that stress is a significant risk whether they are absent or not, you should contact or your HR Partner to conduct a Stress Risk Assessment.