Stewart Gregory, VP of Power Products at Schneider Electric, looks at why its important for electrical industry professionals to learn how to keep their stress levels under control.
While a career as an electrical professional can be rewarding, it can be equally stressful. The mental pressure of working independently and to tight margins are some of the challenges of the job. In recent months, these have only been heightened.
Human errors are a part of every job, but in the electrical industry there is far less room for mistakes. Miscalculations and delays, inevitable at times, can severely effect not only the progress of the project, but also the potential safety of electricians and customers alike. This responsibility can be the source of ongoing stress for many electrical professionals. Equally, a lack of work can be just as problematic. In the current climate, becoming unemployed or unable to work is a reality for many.
Unfortunately, stress is a major part of an electrician’s job, so it is key that you understand how to keep it at a manageable level, to maintain good performance, physical health and work-life balance.
The industry is doing more to recognise the importance of mental health, with well-being coming on leaps and bounds in recent years. However, there’s always more that can be done. It’s especially important to consider and share the benefits that self-help and support networks can have in the recovery process.
Acknowledge the issue
Roles in the electrical industry supply chain can be demanding. Whether you’re an installer or consultant, a lot of travel, significant stretches of time working away from home, long hours and tight deadlines are to be expected. You may also be painfully aware of the potential health and safety risks of the job, which can endanger both your life and your livelihood.
To some extent, a degree of stress is inevitable in every job. But it’s when stress is ignored, underestimated or goes untreated that it can become unmanageable. If left unaddressed, stress has the potential to cause anxiety, depression and even be fatal. Suicide rates among skilled tradespeople are soberingly high, almost 40% above the national average. Male suicide victims in this group account for 29% of all male suicides in the UK.
Stress can also manifest in subtler but no less damaging ways. It can impact a person’s social, emotional and psychological well-being as well as their lifestyle. Stress can cause severe phobias, panic attacks and alcohol addiction. When chronic, it can even contribute to family and marital breakdown, only worsening the plight of the sufferer.
Poor mental health can be extremely self-destructive, and this is the true tragedy. Research shows that stressed workers are more likely to make mistakes on the job. Decision-making is impacted, and people suffering from depression tend to work slower and be less productive. In the electrical trade this can be a major barrier to success, only exacerbating professional frustrations and feelings of self-doubt.
Although exploring the struggles that many electrical professionals face may be a gloomy subject, the power of self-help shouldn’t be underestimated. Personal perspective and initiative are perhaps the most important factors in beating stress. Understanding how to manage the pressure and self-help can make a world of difference.
Acknowledging that you’re under pressure is the first, and probably most difficult, part of overcoming stress. Noticing the warning signs – feelings of exhaustion, bad temper, working late and a worsening diet – is a crucial first step before working up strategies to mitigate stress.
Stress isn’t always work-related, indeed it’s just as likely to be caused by family issues, financial problems like debt or the pressures of caring for a loved one or starting a family. That’s why it’s important to make time for yourself. Setting time aside for exercise and relaxation are actionable and effective steps in relieving stress. We all need to reserve time to stay healthy and, ultimately, be more productive and successful.
Electrical industry professionals shouldn’t go it alone, however. While mental health awareness is growing every day, it sadly remains a bit of a taboo in our industry. Many work in small teams, and although this familiarity and comradery can help alleviate feelings of stress and depression, it can also make individuals more embarrassed to say when they need help.
The internal welfare and support structures other professions benefit from are often absent or unavailable in the electrical industry. This leaves many feeling they have no one to lean on. Yet those in the electrical industry shouldn’t hesitate to reach out to others for advice and insight. Support networks are out there and have been set up to help give all players the financial, educational and emotional support they need.
It’s important that electrical industry professionals know they’re not alone; experienced support networks like the Electrical Industries Charity (EIC) are there for when you or your family need a helping hand. The EIC can provide counselling, legal and financial support for when a problem is too much to bear alone.
Stress is a part of human life, and is often unavoidable. Rather than avoid or deny the pressures we’re under, it’s important to take time to learn how to accept and deal with them, as well as share this knowledge with others. Admitting that you’re under stress is the first, and often hardest, step in the recovery process.
With the growing awareness of mental health and it’s challenges, there are many support networks that offer help and advice specifically to those in the electrical industry. These organisations can teach self-help techniques, so that you can learn to manage stress independently. And when self-help isn’t enough, the EIC can share valuable legal, financial and personal advice.
There are many rewarding and inspiring reasons why people enter the electrical industry – don’t let the pressures of the job get in the way of enjoying them.