“For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.” ~ Lily Tomlin
Perhaps now more than ever before, job stress poses a threat to the health of workers and, in turn, to the health of organizations. Check out this month’s piece of the Big Picture to see what employers
and employees can both do to fight the war on stress.
International conflict, terror alerts, national politics, hurricane season, economic instability; there are plenty of things to worry about these days. And that’s before you finish reading the morning paper. Now add lack of job security, downsizing and reorganizations, heavier workloads, longer hours, and increasing overall demands. No wonder we are feeling overwhelmed these days.
While there are some things we have little or no control over, there are others that we can do something about. One of those is Job Stress.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, job stress can be defined as, “the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker. Job stress can lead to poor health and even injury.”
Short-lived or infrequent episodes of stress pose little risk. But when stressful situations go unresolved, the body is kept in a constant state of activation, which increases the rate of wear and tear to biological systems. Ultimately, fatigue or damage results, and the ability of the body to repair and defend itself can become seriously compromised. As a result, the risk of injury or disease escalates.
Job stress can be cause by a number of conditions. These include how work tasks are designed, corporate culture and management style, interpersonal relationships, roles and responsibilities on the job, career concerns, and environmental conditions. It is no surprise that studies show that stressful working conditions are associated with increased absenteeism, tardiness, and employee burnout – all bottom line issues. In addition, the Journal of Occupation and Environmental Medicine has reported that health care expenditures are nearly 50% greater for workers who report high levels of stress.
Conversely, studies of stress-conscious workplaces suggest that policies benefiting worker health also benefit the bottom line. These include recognition of employees, opportunities for career development, an organizational culture that values the individual worker, and management actions that are consistent with organizational values.
Does your workplace seem stressful? As a manager, try the following:
- Ensure that workload is in line with workers’ capabilities and resources.
- Design jobs to provide meaning, stimulation and opportunities for workers to use their skills.
- Clearly define workers’ roles and responsibilities.
- Give workers opportunities to participate in decisions and actions affecting their jobs.
- Improve communications; reduce uncertainty about career development and future employment prospects.
- Provide opportunities for social interaction.
- Establish work schedules that are compatible with demands and responsibilities outside the job.
As an employee, think about what you can do to de-stress everyday:
- Learn to recognize the symptoms of stress
- Look at your lifestyle and see what can reasonably be changed
- Exercise, eat right, and get enough rest and sleep
- Learn relaxation techniques
- Give up on being perfect; ease up on yourself and others
- Carve out time just for you
- Work off anger with activity
- Prioritize your time and tasks
- Tackle one thing at a time
- Give in occasionally
- Make the first move to be friendly
- Talk with others when something is bothering you
- Ask for help when you need it; offer to help others
- Have fun and LAUGH!
In the war on stress, be vigilant and pay attention to individuals and the environment. You, too, can create a Healthy Workplace!