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How to avoid ever having a bad day at the office

Kate Allen, Managing Director, Allen Associates

Stressed about a project? Frustrated with a colleague? Permanent storm-cloud following you around? We’ve all been there. Of course, when the shoe is on the other foot, it’s easy to offer advice: “take a chill pill", “lighten up” or “it’s only work” roll off the tongue as we walk around in a bubble of positive energy.

Yet, when we wake up on the wrong side of the bed, bouncing back seems near impossible.

Bad days in the office can see us venting to no one on the drive home, silently screaming in a toilet cubicle at lunch or angrily applying to new jobs as a means of escaping the current situation.

No matter how much you love your job or how positive your attitude, one little hiccup can be enough to turn your working day into a waking nightmare. Ultimately, how we react to a bad day will determine the lasting damage. As tempting as it may be to write it off, there’s lessons to be learned from the day from Hell:

1. Plan and prepare

It goes without saying that leaving things until the last minute is a recipe for disaster. Rather than approaching a task with a cool head, you begin in a panicked state of mind and a permanent timer ticking down in the background. Should the slightest thing go wrong, you’ll be in a race against time to put things right.

Now imagine receiving an email about another project in the midst of your panic: how can you not feel flustered and overwhelmed? If a colleague tried to make a joke in this particular moment, I’d fly off the handle. But the solution is simple: we only need to allow more time for planning and preparation. If anxiety is a common cause of a bad day, we can lessen the chances of a bad day by working on the source of the issue.

2. Don’t get sucked in

Whether it’s about a particular project, a customer request or even an internal issue, disagreements at work are inevitable: it’s how we handle them that determines the outcome. Remember, it’s business, it’s not personal - you may feel offended or insulted by a colleague challenging your opinion in a meeting, but you shouldn’t let it get to you. Bring together any group of people under the same roof for eight hours a day - every day - and sparks are bound to fly. Make a point to actively remind yourself of this and you should limit the emotional damage of a disagreement.

3. Don’t take work home

When an incident at work arises, it often becomes the focal point of the entire week. Before long, your bad day at the office has become a bad evening in your own home; you're storming around your room replaying conversations and grumbling to yourself about an issue which should have stopped occupying your thoughts hours ago.

Unsurprisingly, returning to work the next day is even harder: instead of relaxing, you spent the night ruminating over what he or she said and what you did and what could have been done. Sound familiar? It’s time to break the cycle and reclaim your down-time.

If you’re having trouble separating work and home, it might be an idea to go to the gym or go for a long walk or run before settling into the evening. This will give you a chance to shake off the bad energy that has built up during the day and force you to rest in the evening.

4. Know when it’s time to go

If you’ve taken all the steps above and still feel frustrated the minute you set foot in the office, it may be time to move on. When faced with a negative culture or poor working environment, there’s little that one individual can do to turn it around. Entering the jobs market for the first time in a long time may seem intimidating but remaining in a role that makes you unhappy will only hold you back.

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Over the last 20 years, we have grown as a business to become one of the leading independent Recruitment agencies in Oxfordshire, and in 2018 have opened our first London office, to service Clients in the capital.

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