Stress due to work conditions is one of the main occupational hazard and despite companies making consistent efforts to reduce stress at work it is still steadily on the increase. It seems that claims related to stress have a much higher cost in comparison to physical claims, such as injuries, and work related stress claims account for the longest periods of absence.
Stress related to work concerns not only to employees who have to deal with it but also for employers who must ensure a safe and healthy workplace in regards mental health issues. This means it is an employer’s duty of care to not only worry about physical risk but also potential mental and emotional risks.
Not all workers present similar trends when stressed. People who work or are related to community services, teaching, or in the force such as police and rescue services or those who have experienced a major trauma at work are more inclined to present high stress levels.
The bad news though is that some people may present a predisposition to be stressed when suitable conditions are not met in the workforce. So what appears like just a challenge to one person, can appear as an insurmountable problem to another. This may present great challenges for employers as they have to be aware of these conditions and monitor their employees wherever possible. It therefore becomes important to understand how stress could be affecting you and to liaise with your HR and management to make them aware of your needs.
Symptoms of Stress
Symptoms of stress can vary from headaches to muscle tension, feeling tired, anxiety, sleep disorders, feeling overwhelmed, panic attacks, unclear thinking and impaired ability to make decisions. The most important task for employers is to identify signs of stress (the symptoms) and then, try to identify what are the potential sources that are causing stress.
Employers need to watch for decreases in productivity, bullying in the workplace, an increase in absenteeism – especially for stress leave, people working too long hours for too long a period of time. All this could lead to an increase in mental health claims.
Causes of You Stress
The most common cause of stress is feeling like you’ve got too much to do and not enough resources to do it with. This is called overwhelm. Those resources may include the idea of a lack of mental and physical energy, support, and control. There are a number of things that can happen at work that can make you feel this way. Everything from trying to do too much with too short a deadline to feeling out of control over how you work. Is someone bullying you or making it difficult for you? Is your job stimulating enough or lost its meaning? Are you clear in what you need to do and is feedback constructive or belittling? Do you feel secure in your job? All these things contribute to work related stress.
How to Deal with the Stress
Some problems can be addressed directly to the manager or team leader or some other staff. If it is an issue concerning safety it should be reported as soon as possible as it could cause further serious injury – physical or emotional. The key element though in changes in work procures is for both management and staff to work together to provide a better work environment so managers or team leaders must be trained to be supportive and understanding. Unaware management or management stuck in old routines are many times the main source of issues in workplaces.
Once you have identified the source of stress you are in a better position to identify ways of reducing it. Management can modify your job or hold seminars to teach staff new ways to cope. These activities may include meditation and relaxation, breaks for going for a walk, providing people who are supportive and non-judgmental as a sounding board or counselling. Physical and social activities in the office do a lot to break up the intensity by providing quality down time. Management needs to be aware to present healthy food and to notice staff that are not getting on well. All management and staff should be aware to report bullying or harassment issues immediately before they get out of hand.
There needs to be perhaps a new mindset about how your employees think about work. Management can play a key role in this by having training sessions for staff. In Australia statistics show that a high discontent (70% of the population) are not happy with the jobs that they now have. Co-operation and communication are the key to changing this.
Often employees become so immersed in their own worries at home that they forget that the job they are winging about is putting food on the table for them and their families. Appreciation and gratitude are two of the most powerful ways to turn stress into motivation. The energy of that can be used in a positive way to motivate staff further. However it is important that employees have the correct tool kit to become aware of how appreciated they are to give that feedback. Our organisation delivers courses to staff and employers on how to reduce stress and keep staff motivated whilst increasing productivity.