Workplace Stress Management18/07/2018
Stress is the body’s way of responding to any kind of demand, pressure or threat. When an individual senses danger, whether the danger is real or imagined, the body’s defence system swings into action in a rapid and automatic process known as the “stress response” or the “fight-or-flight” reaction. The stress response is the body’s way of protecting the individual. When the response is working properly, it helps the individual to stay focused, energetic, and alert. In emergency situations, stress can save a life by giving the individual extra strength to defend himself. This article discusses workplace stress and how to identify and manage the condition.
What is Workplace Stress?
Workplace stress, also known as occupational stress, is the harmful physical and emotional response that occurs when there is a poor match between job demands and the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker. According to Wikipedia, occupational or workplace stress often stems from unexpected responsibilities and pressures that do not align with a person’s knowledge, skills, or expectations, inhibiting one’s ability to cope. Workplace stress can increase when workers do not feel supported by their supervisors or colleagues, and when they do not have control over the work they do.
Stress at workplace is unavoidable and is sometimes necessary due to the demand of the present-day work environment. An acceptable level of stress can help an individual to rise and meet work or life challenges. It can keep a worker on his toes during work, sharpen his concentration and drives him to achieve uncommon feats at work. However, beyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful and starts causing major damage to the victim’s health, mood, productivity, relationship, and quality of life.
Stress that is acceptable is the one that keeps the worker alert and motivated. However, when the pressure at workplace becomes unbearable and unmanageable, this leads to negative stress and the stress in turn can be harmful to the individual, his family, and the job.
Causes of Workplace Stress
There are several causes of stress in the workplace that impact negatively on employees’ productivity. These include but not limited to:
- Increase Workload. Employees these days are bombarded with heavy workloads, especially those working in the private sector.
- Hostile Work Environment. The importance of a conducive work environment on an employee’s productivity cannot be over-emphasized. A conducive work environment impacts very positively not only on the employees’ productivity but also on their health and well-being. A hostile work environment, on the other hand, has the opposite effect, and is a major contributor to stress in the workplace.
- Downsizing. Many organizations in an attempt to reduce operational costs, are engaging in labour force reduction. The more downsizing in an organization, the more stressed the employees would become, not only because of the reduced workforce which leads to increased workload on the employees, but also the psychological effect it has on them. The fear of loss of job is a stressor.
- Lack of Control Over How the Work is Done. To a great extent, the less control an employee has over how the work is done, the more stressful the work is. Having control over how a particular task is performed has a positive impact on the worker, and it is less stressful for him.
- Distance. Having to commute a long distance to and from work can be very stressful for the worker. The remedy is to try as much as possible not to live too far from your place of employment.
Symptoms of Workplace Stress
The following are some of the common signs that point to the fact that an employee is suffering from work-related stress:
- Lack of concentration at work
- Change in appetite
- Muscle contraction
- Shortness of breath
- Change in skin colour
- Hair loss
- Reduced libido
- Use of alcohol/drugs.
Common Workplace Stressors
A stressor is a chemical or biological agent, environmental condition, external stimulus or an event that causes stress. Common workplace stressors include:
- Task Design
- Heavy workloads
- Long hours of work
- Routine tasks
- Insufficient time to complete a job
- Management Style
- Little or no participation in decision-making
- Little control over the finished product
- Poor workplace communication
- Little or no recognition for job well done
- Interpersonal Relationship
- Poor social environment
- Lack of support from co-workers and/or supervisor
- Discrimination over race, religion, gender and/or age
- Work Roles
- Conflicting or uncertain job expectation
- Too many responsibilities
- Too many bosses/supervisors
- Environmental Concerns
Unpleasant or dangerous physical conditions, such as:
- Crowding environment
- Noisy environment
- Air pollution
- Exposure to toxic chemical environment
- Career Concerns
- Job insecurity
- Lack of opportunity for growth
- No advancement or promotion
The Role of the Worker in Workplace Stress Management
An employee can reduce workplace stress to an acceptable level by:
- Identifying his strengths and weaknesses
- Planning his day and job ahead
- Developing a strong social support
- Building a reliable relationship at the workplace
- Sharing with his spouse things that are necessary
- Setting realistic goals
- Avoiding being too meticulous
- Being organized
- Being positive
- Designing his job objectives to be suitable and achievable
- Being flexible in his job
- Taking a break when necessary
- Delegating responsibilities when necessary
- Eating well
- Ensuring adequate sleep
- Being time conscious
- Being assertive in his job
- Being proactive and asking questions related to his job
- Being punctual to work
- Engaging in regular and moderate exercises
The Role of the Employer in Managing Workplace Stress
Managing workplace stress is not only the responsibility of the workers. The employer also has a role to play to see that work-related stress is reduced to an acceptable level. The employer can do this by:
- Holding regular meetings with the staff to discuss issues affecting their welfare.
- Reviewing staff complaints with a view to addressing them.
- Respecting the opinions of every employee no matter how trivial they may seem.
- Letting the workers know that they are valuable to the organization.
- Being concerned about the staff welfare.
- Stating the employees’ job description and roles clearly.
- Being positive and fair in resolving conflicts among the workers.