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Stress Awareness Month: Transforming Pressure into Progress

Andy Mullings, Global Director, Bluprintx
Stress. It’s very personal, and it shows in different forms.  

From the ‘Sunday Blues’ ahead of the working week to anxiety in the workplace, stress can have a big impact on our happiness and our performance. Unfortunately, it’s all too common in consulting and service roles.  

Across my career, I’ve seen my fair share of work-based stress – and experienced it, too. Much of my perspective on stress comes through a Marketing Operations lens, but it’s undoubtably a factor in wider marketing, sales and service roles.  

It’s something I believe we can talk about more honestly while we develop strategies to mitigate and overcome its impact – especially as this month is Stress Awareness Month. In the UK, the Stress Management Society is building around the theme of ‘Little by Little’; small everyday changes that can make a big difference to our wellbeing. It’s with this in mind that I’ll be talking about transforming pressure into progress. 

 The reality of mental health in the workplace

Let’s start with a few numbers. Numbers that may not surprise you, but should shock you.  

  • 81% of marketing professionals report feeling burned out.  
  • 14% of employees suffer from mental-health related issues.
  • 40% of employees have reported anxiety at work.
  • 12% of sickness absence days are related to mental health.

I don’t think anybody is truly disputing the idea that mental health and stress is a major factor in the workplace, though we may disagree on its causes. But for the moment let’s be realistic about what this means – teams and individuals are not working at maximum capacity, and businesses are losing productivity through presenteeism and absenteeism. And that’s not to mention the costs associated with staff turnover if employees reach the point that they leave for another role. 

Common stressors in Marketing and Marketing Operations

We can’t account for all the underlying causes of workplace stress. Perhaps there’s something going on at home, or factors outside of our control. But we can look at common stress factors: 

  • ‘Doing more with less’ – it’s a common story, and a running theme in the fascinating series pioneered by my colleagues for Women’s History Month. The need to deliver more with restricted budgets and resources can place added stress on the employees tasked to maintain outputs.
  • Unrealistic expectations – whether real or perceived, unrealistic expectations around content and campaign delivery can feel burdensome.
  • Working out of hours – especially for those working for or with global organizations, it can feel difficult to switch off when you know projects are progressing in your down-time. The global mindset can keep us ‘always on’ and available to international stakeholders.  

These factors can feel difficult to manage against the commendable desire to uphold standards and outputs – that’s something I completely understand.  In fact, we’ve recently worked ‘Exceptional Experiences’ into our Bluprintx company values, but with an awareness for delivering this in a sustainable manner. I believe it’s possible to do this little by little, through small interpersonal connections and incremental improvements in standards that map out to a huge impact over time without posing a significant and stressful change.  

Managing anxiety

Let’s start thinking about how we can manage and mitigate anxiety in real time. When I find myself worrying about something, I like to put it into one of two buckets: something that hasn’t happened yet, or something that has happened.  

In some ways, things that haven’t happened yet are easier to manage. For an upcoming presentation, one-to-one or other event, we can spend time preparing. For me, that’s taking notes – the steps I need to take, questions I want to ask, outcomes I am aiming for. Making sure I feel prepared helps to curb the anxiety and improve the experience.  

Things that have already happened can feel trickier. A presentation that didn’t land well, or a campaign that fell flat. For these situations, it’s all about learning. Reflecting on steps we need to take to soften negative outcomes, and what we can improve next time. Beyond that, it’s important to switch off and accept the experience. I like practicing yoga, martial arts and cooking in these moments.  

Understanding your sphere of influence

Knowing what you can influence can help to manage workplace stress. There are areas we can sensibly push our limits to drive additional value and learn new skills – even earn that promotion – but there are some things we just can’t take responsibility for. And remember, it’s little by little. It’s not always about radically transforming our outlook or behavior, but rather remaining conscious of our actions and making active choices toward positivity.    

So let’s cover some stay-aways immediately – first and foremost, negativity of others. If there are people around you, in work or in life, that primarily introduce negativity then it’s best to step away from that. Where constructive and engaging conversations can’t prevail, don’t expend your energy. The same goes for external discourse, especially from social media and television. These platforms are a gift and a curse. You can learn a lot, but it’s so easy to feel drained and focus on the negatives, the echo chambers and the time-sinks. Keep yourself in check, and make sure it’s adding value to your life.  

Much more productive is to focus on situations you can influence. You can control the effort you’re putting in – it’s best to feel you’ve given your all to lighten any regrets regardless of outcomes. And you can choose how you interact with others. You might’ve clashed with colleagues or other parties in the past, but you can initiate a conversation to get past that personal roadblock and lift a burden from your shoulders. You can choose to communicate more clearly and foster a culture of transparency where individuals are accountable yet responsible, with a balance that reduces stress. In all of these areas, you can choose when it’s appropriate to push your comfort zone and take a step forward.  


To wrap this up, I’d like to leave you with a few self-discipline ‘quick wins’ to help you manage stress and anxiety while upping your performance – and impressing those around you!  

  1. Meeting management – try to avoid back-to-back meetings where possible, and clear some time before and after to prep and reflect. This maximizes your meetings while helping minimize the stress surrounding them.
  2. Breaks and performance – take breaks and allocate dedicated time for thinking. You can’t expect to work at peak performance for extended stretches, so do more in concentrated bursts.
  3. Tackle challenging tasks early – don’t let difficult tasks hover over you through the day. Prioritize your challenging tasks when you have most energy, and use the momentum of completing them to carry you through.
  4. Goal setting – establish attainable daily goals to ensure a sense of progress and accomplishment.
  5. Technology utilization – on an individual and organizational level, explore where technology can enhance your productivity and effectiveness. Repetitive and procedural tasks are ripe opportunities for marketing automation.
  6. Task management – allocate appropriate time for tasks, and base your estimates on quality outcomes rather than speed. This way, you respect your own time and build a realistic workload.  


Managing stress is personal, but organizations have an obligation – not to mention a vested interest – in helping to create better working conditions. I believe that marketing automation and marketing operations improvements can make a significant difference, and I’d encourage every business to consider it carefully.  

It’s about progress not revolution, finding small wins that improve the working lives of employees little by little. And in my experience, businesses will reap the rewards of happy and productive teams. 

If you’d like to talk some more, connect with me on LinkedIn or feel free to use the contact form below and one of our experts will be in touch.