What Are the Causes and Effects of Work-Related Stress?
Stress influences every aspect of a worker’s performance. Stress can contribute to lower productivity, absenteeism, and even an increased risk of work-related errors and accidents.
An overstressed worker is more likely to overlook important duties, safety precautions, or job requirements.
The cost of job stress is a real threat to businesses in every industry. Safe Work Australia has outlined that mental health workers’ compensation claims have now reached $543m of all workers’ compensation claims awarded. This equates to 6% of all workers’ compensation claims nationwide.
Understanding the causes and effects of work-related stress may assistp you or your staff address the ranging issues that add to the stress.
What Does Workplace Stress Mean?
The accepted definition of stress is the physical and mental state that occurs when you do not have the resources to deal with stressful situations.
Everyone wants a better work-life balance. Unfortunately, more people are feeling stressed at work and at home. This often starts with stressful situations in the workplace.
Anyone can suffer from stress. You can typically divide stress into two categories — ‘work’ and ‘persona’l. However, these two areas remain tightly connected.
When workers experience stress in their personal life, they may start to become overwhelmed at work. The effects of stress at home can carry over into the workplace and vice versa.
The most common workplace stressors include:
- Workplace demands;
- Relationships and co-worker interactions;
- Difficult or hazardous work environments;
- Lack of resources or support;
- Bad management structures and practices;
- Lack of health and safety procedures; and
- Overall workplace culture.
No matter the cause, stress often stems from a lack of control. When issues out of your control exceed your ability to cope with the situation, you become stressed. For example, you may start feeling stressed due to time constraints.
Besides work-related issues, some individuals are simply more prone to stress. A worker with existing a mental health condition, such as anxiety, may find it harder to cope with work-related stress.
What Are the Signs of Work Stress?
The first sign of work stress is reduced productivity and output. Mentally healthy workers tend to stay on track, avoid errors, and complete their duties in a timely manner.
Managing work duties becomes more difficult when you feel stressed. It can lead to physical, psychological, and behavioural changes.
Physical symptoms include headaches, muscular tension, fatigue, gastrointestinal issues, and difficulty sleeping.
Psychological problems include increased anxiety, depression, irritability, hostility, pessimism/negativity, and difficulty concentrating.
- These issues lead to behavioural changes, such as:
- Taking additional sick days;
- Not keeping up with work demands;
- Aggressive or abnormal behaviour;
- Lack of focus or motivation; and
- Mood swings.
Workers may become disinterested in their job performance. These issues also lead to an increased risk of hazards.
Overwhelmed or overstressed workers may overlook safety precautions, increasing the chance of an accident or injury. This is especially dangerous for jobs with an increased risk of stress.
Jobs with an Increased Risk of Stress
Some individuals are more prone to feelings of stress when compared to others. At the same time, some jobs bring an inherent increase of risk from stress.
Jobs with a higher risk of injury, fast-paced work environment, or demanding job duties tend to lead to more stress. Surprisingly, many of the most stressed professions in Australia include office, retail, or hospitality-related work environments. These professions include:
- Sales support staff;
- Hospitality workers;
- Legal professionals;
- Aides and carers;
- Health and welfare workers;
- Sales representatives;
- Numerical clerks;
- Laundry workers;
- Clerical workers; and
- Personal assistants.
In each of these professions, one-third of the workers feel overstressed. However, work-related stress occurs in every industry.
The first step for preventing stress is to identify the primary causes of stress at work. Some of the main sources of stress in the workplace include unwanted pressure related to difficult working conditions or from hostile work relationships. You can typically divide the potential stressors into three categories:
- Environment’ and
Relationships between co-workers, supervisors, and directors directly impact job performance, satisfaction, and stress. Bullying, discrimination, hostility, and conflicts with managers or supervisors keep workers from focusing on their duties.
Difficult work environments also bring unwanted pressure. Jobs that have increased risk of musculoskeletal disorders or on-the-job injuries tend to cause feelings of stress. Conditions that are too hot or too cold may make workers uncomfortable. Poorly selected of maintained equipment, overcrowding, vibration, or exposure to harmful chemicals or fumes may also lead to stress.
Job duties that add pressure include excessive workloads, long hours, repetitive work, deadlines, lack of training, or a lack of control. Organisational changes, excessive employee monitoring, and job insecurity also contribute.
How to Deal with Workplace Stress
By understanding the causes, managers or supervisors may take steps to reduce work-related stress. Workers can also take steps to gain more control and reduce the impact of stress on their personal and professional lives. These ‘de-stressing’ methods include:
- Consistent sleep; and
- Better work/life balance.
Exercise is a great stress reliever. It relieves tension and helps clear your mind. When you feel stressed at work, go for a walk around the block and stretch your legs (if time permits). You may also start exercising before or after work.
Relaxation also helps individuals cope with stress. Common relaxation solutions include meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, and breathing techniques.
You can practice breathing techniques anywhere, including the workplace. When you become overwhelmed, take a deep breath. Inhale through your nose, hold it for a second, and slowly exhale through your mouth.
A lack of sleep makes it difficult to reset your brain each day. You need to decompress to prepare yourself for the next workday. If you struggle to sleep each night, start setting a consistent bedtime and morning alarm.
Laying down and getting up at the same time each day can assist in training your brain to sleep according to your set schedule.
Along with these tips, try to maintain a better work/life balance. Stop bringing work home with you and consider taking an extra day off occasionally.
Besides protecting the physical health of workers, employers should take steps to protect mental health and welfare. Increased stress levels impact the health and safety of the entire workforce.
Promoting proper safety procedures and providing workers with the resources and support they need to do their jobs should help reduce work-related stress. However, workers also need to remain proactive.
Reduce stress in your own life through exercise, relaxation, consistent sleep, and a better work/life balance.
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