Insights from practitioners in Information Management

Issue 4 – Dealing with stress

Stress can be a killer. As we move into the silly season it is important to take time out for yourself.

Welcome to the last issue of 2002, one question – where has the year gone?  We would like to wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas and Happy, Safe and Prosperous New Year, and we look forward to many more contract opportunities for everyone in 2003. 

We are taking some time off over the Christmas and New Year period.  The offices will be closed from Friday 20th December until Monday 6th January.  Now before you start to panic, we will be working on Monday the 30th December in order to pay everyone who is currently working, so please ensure that your time sheets are sent through as normal.  If you need to contact a member of the team urgently, you can leave a message on the answering machine, or you can contact us on the following mobile numbers: Gail Murphy: 0412103617, Rachel Moylan: 0422762259; Shirley Cowcher: 0411102051 or Lorraine Lovett: 0419049237.

We look forward to speaking with you again in the New Year.

In this issue…
We will be looking at :

• Significant Achievements of 2002;
• How to recognise stress;
• Contracting can be Stressful
• Christmas: The Stresstive Season

Significant Achievements of 2002
The team was restructured during the first half of 2002, placing Rachel Moylan as the focal point for the Employment Services, Gail Murphy as the focal point for Consulting and Training Services and overall Customer Service.  Lorraine Lovett now holds the role for Marketing, Training Coordination, ARRM Production and Special Projects.  Kay Hack remains responsible for Contracts, Accounts, Payroll and Quality, and Shirley remains in her position as IEA’s Director.

A new employment database (FastTrack) was implemented, allowing us to track contractors, clients and jobs and allows us to better match client and contractor skills and requirements.

A new Registrants Handbook was written and produced, and contains information and clear guidelines for all our registrants and contractors in how we operate and the policies and procedures we have in place.

Inductions were introduced for all registrants and contractors.  These Information, Education and Awareness Sessions are conducted twice monthly and are compulsory attendance for everyone, and cover topics such as OHS issues in the workplace including: manual handling and workstation ergonomics. 

Regular newsletters have been written and produced for both clients and contractors.  Themes covered so far have been Training, Security, Communication, Finances, Code of Conduct and Storage.  The Other Page on the IEA Web site is also updated on a monthly basis.

IEA has introduced a Records Management Support Package for Local Governments; we call it GRIP (Government Records Implementation Package). It provides a brief review and implementation guidelines, on-site training for the support staff who will be implementing the system, telephone support for 12 months and an audit at completion of the implementation or after 12 months.  It has been eagerly adopted by a number of regional areas that are suffering due to lack of funds and expertise.

Regional consultation:  Gail has spent many weeks away in both the North and South of our state providing consulting and training in records management.

There has been an extensive review of the Australian Record Retention Manual (ARRM) legislation, and the production of the 3rd edition is now complete.

All in all, 2002 has been a busy year for everyone here at IEA.  We are hoping that 2003 will bring a consolidation of all new services and the introduction of several new initiatives such as Information Evenings on topics such as writing the killer CV, and how to write Selection Criteria. 

How to Recognise Stress
To be perfectly honest, anything and everything can cause stress if we place too much emphasis on it.  We live in a very hectic world, where there are many things competing with our time, energy, money and patience.  

Common long term symptoms of stress include: Physical Conditions such as:
Hypertension; Heart Disease; Strokes; Diabetes; Ulcers; Infectious Diseases; Spastic Colon, and Psychological Problems such as Serious Depression; Domestic Violence; Suicidal Behaviour; Alcoholism and Substance Abuse.

Typical causes of stress can be:
Feeling unsociable or restless; Loss of appetite or overeating; Loss of interest in sex; Disturbed sleep or insomnia; Drinking more alcohol; Smoking more; Taking work home; Being too busy to relax and have time out for yourself; Lying; Anti-social behaviour; Being unable to unwind; Low productivity; Accident prone; Bad driving; Impaired speech patterns; Voice tremor; Increased problems at home; Poor time management and withdrawal from supportive relationships.

The trick is to know which are the major stressors in your life and to look at eliminating them.

Contracting can be Stressful
The most common stressor in the contract environment is the fact that work cannot be guaranteed, nor can continuation of work be expected once a fixed-term contract has begun.  Therefore the uncertainty of job length may cause acute anxiety with people who rely on contract work to make ends meet financially, and with the added pressure that Christmas brings.

Other stressors include: Going for interviews; Meeting lots of new people, Starting yet another new job; Learning new skills; Not being shown what to do because you are there to cover for the person who is off on stress leave, Lack of training; Lack of a decent handover; Expected to know everything and to be able to hit the ground running; Lack of or poor site orientation when you arrive; Not knowing where to go; etc etc, the list is almost endless.

So what can you do about it?

Well if short-term contracts really do stress you out that much, then its time to find a permanent or long-term job.

Treat each new contract as a learning experience. It will look great on the CV.

Attend IEA’s Induction – “Information, Education and Awareness Sessions” You will be given practical advice on what to do in potentially hazardous and stressful situations, and what questions you should be asking when you start your new  fixed term contract.

Remember we are only a phone call away.  If you are unsure about anything concerning your contract, you should speak to a member of the employment services team as soon as possible, and if necessary we will schedule a site visit with you and the client to discuss any issues.  If we aren’t aware of the problem, we cannot do anything about it. We can be contacted on 9335 2533 between the hours of 8.30 and 5.  Please see Editorial for out of hours contact numbers.

Don’t forget you have the right to say NO.  Occasionally you may be asked to undertake a job that you do not feel comfortable doing.  Do not think that by saying NO to this job opportunity that we won’t offer you other opportunities in the future.

Christmas: The Stresstive Season
Christmas is naturally a very stressful time of the year in the contract arena.  Some contracts will finish, some new ones will start up to cover  those people who are going on annual leave, and others will continue to run as normal, except that fewer people will be in and therefore those who are working will be working twice as hard to get the work done.  In amongst all that, there is the shopping to be done, pressies to wrap, dinner to cook, children to look after (after all school breaks up on the 20th) .  How on earth can you hope to have a very Merry Christmas with all that going on? 

Here are some tips for you:
• Recognise the fact that it’s a stressful time of year and try not to do too much.
• Simplify the season – Reassess what’s important to you.  If its finding that perfect present then so be it.  If it’s having a good time with family and friends, then make sure you have the energy to do so.
• Set realistic goals and stick to them.  Maybe you need to ask family and friends if they want a Christmas gift this year, or would it be easier and less expensive to buy a joint gift for the whole family/group or instead of buying gifts why not make a donation to charity to help those who have little or nothing most of the year.
• Take one thing at a time.  Time Management and a good list are the key here.
• Enlist some help.  Don’t try and do it all yourself.  Get people to bring something to contribute to dinner, and draw up a job roster.
• Go for a walk – one that doesn’t involve the shops.  It’s a great stress buster.
• Eat well – don’t make the mistake of missing meals because you don’t have the time.  Make time, you’ll have more energy to do what you need to do.
• Get enough sleep – easier said than done I know with everything running around inside your head demanding attention. 
• Taking time out for yourself.  This is the best present you can give yourself.

A Thought to Ponder
“If you are going through hell, keep going”
Sir Winston Churchill