Stress at WorkOn by Ramsey
By 1995, nearly one-half of the States allowed worker compensation claims for emotional disorders and disability due to stress on the job [note, however, that courts are reluctant to uphold claims for what can be considered ordinary working conditions or just hard work].
Workplace Stress – General
“Stress is a reaction to a situation – it isn’t about the actual situation. We usually feel stressed when we think that the demands of the situation are greater than our resources to deal with that situation. For example, someone who feels comfortable speaking in public may not worry about giving a presentation, while someone who isn’t confident in their skills may feel a lot of stress about an upcoming presentation. Common sources of stress may include major life events, like moving or changing jobs. Long-term worries, like a long-term illness or parenting, can also feel stressful. Even daily hassles like dealing with traffic can be a source of stress.”
From: “Stress”, Canadian Mental Health Association, 2018
Workplace stress then is the harmful physical and emotional responses that can happen when there is a conflict between job demands on the employee and the amount of control an employee has over meeting these demands. In general, the combination of high demands in a job and a low amount of control over the situation can lead to stress.
Stress in the workplace can have many origins or come from one single event. It can impact on both employees and employers alike. It is generally believed that some stress is okay (sometimes referred to as “challenge” or “positive stress”) but when stress occurs in amounts that you cannot handle, both mental and physical changes may occur.
Stress at work warning signs
Sometimes the best stress-reducer is simply sharing your stress with someone close to you. The act of talking it out and getting support and sympathy—especially face-to-face—can be a highly-effective way of blowing off steam and regaining your sense of calm. The other person doesn’t have to “fix” your problems; they just need to be a good listener.
Turn to co-workers for support. Having a solid support system at work can help buffer you from the negative effects of job stress. Just remember to listen to them and offer support when they are in need as well. If you don’t have a close friend at work, you can take steps to be more social with your coworkers. When you take a break, for example, instead of directing your attention to your smartphone, try engaging your colleagues.
Lean on your friends and family members. As well as increasing social contact at work, having a strong network of supportive friends and family members is extremely important to managing stress in all areas of your life. On the flip side, the lonelier and more isolated you are, the greater your vulnerability to stress.
Build new satisfying friendships. If you don’t feel that you have anyone to turn to—at work or in your free time—it’s never too late to build new friendships. Meet new people with common interests by taking a class or joining a club, or by volunteering your time. As well as expanding your social network, helping others—especially those who are appreciative—delivers immense pleasure and can help significantly reduce stress.
Tip 2: Support your health with exercise and nutrition
Make time for regular exercise
Aerobic exercise—activity that raises your heart rate and makes you sweat—is a hugely effective way to lift your mood, increase energy, sharpen focus, and relax both the mind and body. Rhythmic movement—such as walking, running, dancing, drumming, etc.—is especially soothing for the nervous system. For maximum stress relief, try to get at least 30 minutes of activity on most days. If it’s easier to fit into your schedule, break up the activity into two or three shorter segments.
And when stress is mounting at work, try to take a quick break and move away from the stressful situation. Take a stroll outside the workplace if possible. Physical movement can help you regain your balance.
Make smart, stress-busting food choices
Your food choices can have a huge impact on how you feel during the work day. Eating small, frequent and healthy meals, for example, can help your body maintain an even level of blood sugar. This maintains your energy and focus, and prevents mood swings. Low blood sugar, on the other hand, can make you feel anxious and irritable, while eating too much can make you lethargic.
Minimize sugar and refined carbs. When you’re stressed, you may crave sugary snacks, baked goods, or comfort foods such as pasta or French fries. But these “feel-good” foods quickly lead to a crash in mood and energy, making symptoms of stress worse, not better.
Steps Toward Prevention
Low morale, health and job complaints, and employee turnover often provide the first signs of job stress. But sometimes there are no clues, especially if employees are fearful of losing their jobs. Lack of obvious or widespread signs is not a good reason to dismiss concerns about job stress or minimize the importance of a prevention program.
Step 1 — Identify the Problem. The best method to explore the scope and source of a suspected stress problem in an organization depends partly on the size of the organization and the available resources. Group discussions among managers, labor representatives, and employees can provide rich sources of information. Such discussions may be all that is needed to track down and remedy stress problems in a small company. In a larger organization, such discussions can be used to help design formal surveys for gathering input about stressful job conditions from large numbers of employees.
stress, health, and satisfaction. The list of job conditions that may lead to stress (page 9) and the warning signs and effects of stress (page 11) provide good starting points for deciding what information to collect.
Regardless of the method used to collect data, information should be obtained about employee perceptions of their job conditions and perceived levels of stress, health, and satisfaction. The list of job conditions that may lead to stress (page 9) and the warning signs and effects of stress (page 11) provide good starting points for deciding what information to collect.
Objective measures such as absenteeism, illness and turnover rates, or performance problems can also be examined to gauge the presence and scope of job stress. However, these measures are only rough indicators of job stress-at best.
Data from discussions, surveys, and other sources should be summarized and analyzed to answer questions about the location of a stress problem and job conditions that may be responsible-for example, are problems present throughout the organization or confined to single departments or specific jobs?
Survey design, data analysis, and other aspects of a stress prevention program may require the help of experts from a local university or consulting firm. However, overall authority for the prevention program should remain in the organization.
Step 2 — Design and Implement Interventions. Once the sources of stress at work have been identified and the scope of the problem is understood, the stage is set for design and implementation of an intervention strategy.
In small organizations, the informal discussions that helped identify stress problems may also produce fruitful ideas for prevention. In large organizations, a more formal process may be needed. Frequently, a team is asked to develop recommendations based on analysis of data from Step 1 and consultation with outside experts.
Certain problems, such as a hostile work environment, may be pervasive in the organization and require company-wide interventions. Other problems such as excessive workload may exist only in some departments and thus require more narrow solutions such as redesign of the way a job is performed. Still other problems may be specific to certain employees and resistant to any kind of organizational change, calling instead for stress management or employee assistance interventions. Some interventions might be implemented rapidly (e.g., improved communication, stress management training), but others may require additional time to put into place (e.g., redesign of a manufacturing process).
Step 3 — Evaluate the Interventions. Evaluation is an essential step in the intervention process. Evaluation is necessary to determine whether the intervention is producing desired effects and whether changes in direction are needed.
involving organizational change should receive both short- and long-term scrutiny. Short-term evaluations might be done quarterly to provide an early indication of program effectiveness or possible need for redirection. Many interventions produce initial effects that do not persist. Long-term evaluations are often conducted annually and are necessary to determine whether interventions produce lasting effects.
Evaluations should focus on the same types of information collected during the problem identification phase of the intervention, including information from employees about working conditions, levels of perceived stress, health problems, and satisfaction. Employee perceptions are usually the most sensitive measure of stressful working conditions and often provide the first indication of intervention effectiveness. Adding objective measures such as absenteeism and health care costs may also be useful. However, the effects of job stress interventions on such measures tend to be less clear-cut and can take a long time to appear.
Need Additional Information?
State psychological associations maintain a listing of licensed psychologists who may be able to help with stress-related issues. Call the APA or your State psychological association for more information, or refer to the APA internet site external icon with this information .
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Bureau of Labor Statistics external icon
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Northwestern National Life (now ReliaStar Financial Corporation)
Northwestern National Life Insurance Company . Employee burnout: America’s newest epidemic. Minneapolis, MN: Northwestern National Life Insurance Company. (Note: This reference is the source for the statistics cited on page 5.)
Northwestern National Life Insurance Company . Employee burnout: causes and cures. Minneapolis, MN: Northwestern National Life Insurance Company. (Note: This reference is the source for the information presented in the graph on page 4.)
Princeton Survey Research Associates
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St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Company
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