Work-related stress is a growing problem around the world that affects not only the health and well-being of employees, but also the productivity of organisations. Work-related stress arises where work demands of various types and combinations exceed the person’s capacity and capability to cope. Work-related stress can be caused by various events.
For example, a person might feel under pressure if the demands of their job (such as hours or responsibilities) are greater than they can comfortably manage. Other sources of work-related stress include conflict with co-workers or bosses, constant change, and threats to job security, such as potential redundancy.
It also depends on the individual. What one person may perceive as stressful, however, another may view as challenging. Whether a person experiences work-related stress depends on the job, the person’s psychological make-up, and other factors (such as personal life and general health).
Symptoms of Work-related stress
The signs or symptoms can be physical, psychological and behavioural.
Physical symptoms experienced in work-related stress include; Fatigue, Muscular tension, Headaches, Heart palpitations, Sleeping difficulties, such as insomnia, Gastrointestinal upsets, such as diarrhoea or constipation and Dermatological disorders.
Psychological symptoms experienced in work-related stress include; Depression, Anxiety, Discouragement, Irritability, Pessimism, Feelings of being overwhelmed and unable to cope, Cognitive difficulties, such as a reduced ability to concentrate or make decisions.
Behavioural symptoms experienced in work-related stress include; An increase in sick days or absenteeism, Aggression, Diminished creativity and initiative. A drop in work performance, Problems with interpersonal relationships, Mood swings and irritability, Disinterest, Isolation, Lower tolerance of frustration and impatience.
Some of the factors that are common include; Long hours, Heavy workload, Changes within the organisation, Tight deadlines, Changes to duties, Job insecurity, Lack of autonomy, Boring work, Insufficient skills for the job, Over-supervision, Inadequate working environment, Lack of proper resources, Lack of equipment, Few promotional opportunities, Harassment, Discrimination, Poor relationships with colleagues or bosses, Crisis incidents, such as an armed hold-up or workplace death.
A person suffering from Work-related stress can help themselves in a number of ways, including:
- Think about the changes you need to make at work in order to reduce your stress levels and then take action. Some changes you can manage yourself, while others will need the cooperation of others.
- Talk over your concerns with your employer or human resources manager.
- Make sure you are well organised. List your tasks in order of priority. Schedule the most difficult tasks of each day for times when you are fresh, such as first thing in the morning.
- Take care of yourself. Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly.
- Make sure you have enough free time to yourself every week.
- Don’t take out your stress on loved ones. Instead, tell them about your work problems and ask for their support and suggestions.
- Drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco, won’t alleviate stress and can cause additional health problems. Avoid excessive drinking and smoking.
If work-related stress continues to be a problem, despite your efforts, you may need to consider another job or a career change. Seek advice from a career counsellor or psychologist.
It is important for employers to recognise work-related stress as a significant health and safety issue. A company can and should take steps to ensure that employees are not subjected to unnecessary stress.