Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Stress Busting

Yesterday I attended a presentation entitled Stress Busting and thought it was so good it’s even worth a post.
The event was arranged by WorkSafe Victoria, the authority in charge of reducing workplace injuries in Victoria, and is/was a part of their WorkSafe Week: a week of concentrated events to promote people’s awareness of safety issues.
This particular event that I have attended was dealing with workplace stress. Personally, this is probably the worst enemy I face at the office, even while taking into account back issues and wrist problems from over keyboarding and mousing. Think about it this way: when I finally get that fatal heart attack, the primary reason for it being there would be stress; and the primary source of that stress is work. That said, the presentation turned out to be much more relevant than anticipated, providing tools and information to identify stress and combat it regardless of source.

And so I made my way to Melbourne Museum yesterday afternoon to attend this presentation. Melbourne Museum is where WorkSafe conducts its Melbourne based WorkSafe Week events, and an excellent choice of a venue it is: the food was great, for a start, and they even had free coffee – and sophisticated coffee at that, not your instant or Starbucks grade crap. There’s more to it, though: The museum itself is an incredibly lovely venue and one of the better museums I have had the pleasure of attending in general. True, it’s nothing compared to, say, London’s Natural History Museum in wealth; however, it pays back by having rather manageable natural history exhibits that deliver the point even more effectively simply because they are just the right size to be digestible. I can’t wait till Dylan is old enough for me to take him there and show him evolution’s work.
While attending a WorkSafe Week event last year the museum gave me an added bonus: At the end of the event I found myself inside the museum so I was able to go for a quick tour before returning to the office. Not that a proper museum visit is too dear; it’s not. It’s just that it was a nice way to spend some of my working day.
This year I came prepared and brought my camera along (albeit the smaller and more manageable one rather than the SLR) only to find that “my” presentation was being held just outside the main entry to the museum. Oh well, I had to settle for taking some outdoor photos instead, but even that wasn’t bad: it was a glorious day – Melbourne is at its best weather this time of the year, not too cold and not too warm – and the sun was up. The Royal Exhibition Building, standing right next to the museum, was as photogenic as it can be.

Back to the presentation itself.
Over the last few years and through work I have had the opportunity to attend many presentation to do with dealing with stress, depression and general well being. The vast majority of those were either wishy-washy, as in events where some speaker says lots of things that you can relate to at the emotional level but can’t do much with otherwise, or worse – presentations where the presented came to present their own private agendas without worrying too much about evidence to support their claim. After all, if they think about it and if they manage to get crowds to listen to them then they must be right, don’t they? Sadly, religion proves most people agree and fall for such things; maybe not consciously, but effectively.
The Stress Busting presentation was different. Along came a proper university professor and did a methodological presentation, the way one would expect a properly laid out scientific paper to be structured for peer reviews. Only that she did it in an entertaining fashion that was quite thrilling and didn’t read as boringly as your average scientific paper written by someone with their head mostly in the clouds.
She started by defining stress and establishing when it becomes a problem. She moved on to specify what research identifies as the main causes for work stress as well as the main implications of said stress. And then she went on to analyze how one thing leads to another and, most importantly, what we can do about it. Everything was explained systematically with numbers and KPIs to complement each statement: that is, instead of having to take her words for it, she let the evidence do the talking.
For the record, the above photo is a photo of her presentation’s summary slide. I don’t know if you can read it, I took it while experimenting with my new PDA’s camera, but you can get a lot of the presentation’s gist through it. Essentially, the message was that stress can be handled the same way all problems are handled and the same way one would deal with conventional hazards: it can be identified and rectified, and it can even be prevented through clever design.

I warmly recommend attending similar WorkSafe Week events or other similar events. Then there’s always next year, and the museum is open throughout the year...

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