Workplace Stress: An Introduction
More often than not, any workplace can invite stressful situations.
The APA’s Annual Stress in America Survey has revealed that for a majority of Americans, work has been their significant source of stress.
But how do we define workplace stress?
Workplace stress can be defined as the physical and emotional responses that arise when there is a conflict between the worker’s expectations, needs, capabilities, and job demands.
If unchecked, workplace stress can have long-lasting negative impacts on a worker’s health and professional life.
Signs of Workplace Stress
Stress does not exist in a vacuum. It has real consequences and effects on your physical and mental health, and it shows in several ways.
Here are a few signs and symptoms of workplace stress:
- Sudden fluctuations in weight
- Increased irritability
- Increased use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes
- Unhealthy eating habits
- Lack of concentration or focus
- Low productivity and performance
- Increased absenteeism
Causes of Workplace Stress
Various factors can cause stress in the workplace. Below are some common factors or reasons that lead to workplace stress:
- Excessive and unrealistic workloads
- No or few opportunities for growth
- Low salary or job insecurity
- Having leaders who are either unapproachable or too controlling
- Difficulty in achieving a work-life balance
- Poor relations with colleagues and peers
- Lack of employee rewards and recognition
- Discrimination in the workplace
- Working shifts
- Workplace harassment
- Poor employee health in one or more dimensions of wellness in the workplace
Some Worrying Statistics
Job stress has emerged to be the leading cause and source of stress among working professionals. Various studies on stress give us some statistics to worry about.
Here are a few findings from the Stress…At Work NIOSH Report:
- 40% of workers felt that their job was too stressful
- 75% of workers surveyed said that workers now are way more stressed than they were a generation ago
- A 2000 Integra Survey reported that 34% of workers had difficulty sleeping
- The same survey also revealed that 12% of workers called in sick because of job stress
- Another report showed that 25% of workers felt like screaming or shouting because of job stress
Effects of Workplace Stress on Employee Health
If not managed properly, work-related stress can lead to many complications in an employee’s personal and professional life.
Stress results in several health complications like a reduced immune system, headaches, obesity resulting from stress-eating, insomnia, high blood pressure, hypertension, and heart problems.
With too much stress, an employee’s mental health is compromised as well. An employee with workplace stress has a higher probability of suffering from conditions like anxiety and workplace depression. They might also have difficulty concentrating on big and small tasks at hand.
Moreover, stressed employees might develop unhealthy habits like substance abuse, increasing dependence on alcohol and caffeine.
Ways to Combat Workplace Stress
As we already see, workplace stress can significantly hamper employee health and productivity, leading to poor and unmotivated performance at work.
However, there are ways to combat workplace stress effectively that employees must know.
So let’s have a look at a few of the ways that help combat workplace stress.
Remain aware of your stressors:
We already had a look at the signs and factors that set off your stress. These factors are also called stressors.
The very first step in combating stress is being aware of one’s stressors. Does working under strict deadlines make you anxious and stressed out? Do you believe you are being underpaid for your job role?
Whatever the stressor – you might have one or more – you must be aware of them. Track your bodily responses and note how you react in a stressful situation. Did you reach out for a cigarette or two? Did you experience any anxiety? Did you binge on unhealthy snacks instead? Keeping a journal to record this information would be extremely useful as well.
Focus on forming healthy responses:
How you respond to workplace stress can alter its effects on you. Try to substitute your unhealthy habits and responses to stress with healthier ones.
For instance, instead of going for smoke breaks during the day, take a walk. If your workplace gives you access to onsite Yoga, or meditation rooms, indulge in a 10-minute meditation break.
If reading helps you distract your stressed mind, take a five-minute reading break to help you calm down. Talk to your colleagues. Drink some water. Use stress-relief products like a fidget spinner or a stress ball to take your mind off stressful thoughts.
Apart from these immediate responses to tackle stress, you should also focus on implementing good habits in your everyday life.
Sleep management is crucial in mitigating stress in everyday life. Ensure that you have a clean sleep schedule that allows you to sleep for six to seven hours every night.
Reduce your caffeine and junk-food intake. Check and reduce your dependency on smoking and alcohol to relax and calm your nerves.
Minimize your screen times, and exercise daily.
Create a Work-Life Balance
It is essential to establish boundaries for segregating your personal and professional lives and achieving a work-life balance.
In today’s world, we are just one text or email away from each other. This should not automatically translate to being available to your bosses and colleagues 24*7. Establish clear boundaries between your working hours and personal life. Knowing how to manage your time well, is the best possible solution to establishing these boundaries.
Creating this balance helps you get rid of a massive chunk of work stress that you might carry with you to your personal lives and spaces as well. With a work-life balance in place, your brain knows when is the time to worry about meetings, deadlines, and presentations, and when it’s simply not.
Indulge in relaxing activities
Take some time out to participate in activities that help you relax. Physical activities release hormones that ease and energize the body and mind.
It can be anything from yoga and stretching to gardening or taking a dance class.
Carry an adult coloring book to indulge in during work breaks. Or simply go for a walk out in the open to detach yourself from work pressures for a few minutes.
Get help and support
Sometimes, the usual measures might not suffice to help you cope with workplace stress.
Thus, it is always a good idea to ask for help and support from your colleagues and supervisors.
Have an honest conversation with your supervisors about your concerns with the job, and the specific stressors that hamper your health, productivity, performance, and growth. Once you do so, you can come up with an effective plan that will address your needs.
Your supervisor should help you make full use of the employee assistance program that is in place in your organization. You can access various resources meant to educate and inform you about workplace stress, its effects, and measures to mitigate it.
You could also seek the help of an onsite professional counselor, whose services might be available to you through your company’s employee wellness program.
The fact of the matter remains: do not shy away from seeking support.
Suffering from stress in the workplace is not an uncommon phenomenon.
However, as already mentioned, prolonged stress can be detrimental to employee health and productivity, leading to burnout.
With informed and active measures, employees can effectively combat stress.
Priyakshi Sharma is a content marketer at Vantage Circle, an employee engagement platform and Vantage Fit, an all-in-one corporate health and wellness solution. In her free time, she is found writing about cinema, life, and everything in between.