Workplace stress is one of the primary causes of employee sickness absence each year and, in an ever competitive world where long hours are increasingly the norm, handling stress has never been more important.
What Exactly is Workplace Stress?
Firstly, it’s important not to confuse workplace stress with the day-to-day challenges that work presents. Some people thrive on challenge and pressure and it motivates some to the extent that they feel fulfilled when they’ve overcome particular challenges.
However, workplace stress is often the result of feeling unable to meet particular job demands and it can affect people on both a physiological an emotional level. And, if left unchecked, it can result in exhaustion or burn-out, can cause accidents and injuries and even more prolonged illness. Furthermore, it can sometimes lead people into having to give up their job.
What Causes Stress in the Workplace?
Stress in the workplace can be triggered by a number of different things and what might trigger it off in one person is not necessarily going to affect another. However, there are a number of factors which can culminate in workplace stress. These can include:
- Excessive and unreasonable demands with regard to managing workload versus time
- Long shifts and insufficient work breaks
- Poor communication within the company and bad management practices
- Low staff morale and lack of co-operation between work colleagues
- Poorly defined work roles or uncertain job expectations
- Career concerns such as job insecurity and lack of career development
- Poor environmental conditions
Workplace Stress Management
There are numerous ways in which a company can help their workforce to eliminate or, at least, reduce stress. Firstly, workplace stress management should include ensuring that the work which is required is in line with the abilities and resources of the workers.
Another way of achieving reduced levels of workplace stress is to actively engage workers in decisions which affect their performance and promote a culture of open communication between the workforce and management. A company should also look at ways of incentivising its workforce in order to boost staff morale.
Often the most important aspect in alleviating workplace stress, however, is for companies to take on board the concerns of most workers in the modern day workplace when it comes to trying to achieve a healthy work/life balance. This may mean introducing things like job sharing, flexible working, home-based working, childcare provision and the like.
Coping as an Individual
It is important to speak out if you feel you are suffering from workplace stress. Often employers are not aware that a worker may be handling stress related problems badly because the worker will keep it to themselves for fear of losing their job. It might sometimes mean having to say ‘no’ to certain unreasonable requests if you want to maintain a healthy balance between work and your personal life.
It’s important that, as an individual, you make sure that you eat a healthy, balanced diet, that you take regular exercise and find time for relaxation and get a decent night’s sleep. You should also place as much emphasis on the importance of spending time with your family and friends and pursuing hobbies and other social activities.
Ultimately, it’s a combination between companies recognising the damage that workplace stress can cause and introducing ways of alleviating that alongside your own efforts in taking care of yourself both physically and mentally that will improve your ability in handling stress.