While stress is an inevitable part of life, it can be harmful to your long-term health if you feel highly stressed all the time. For the working population, most of our stress comes from our jobs. However while the job may be the source, the stress that we feel sometimes spills over into our personal lives and causes damage there too. It is important to learn how to manage work stress and still stay productive.
What is work stress?
Work related stress is a problem that plagues companies and employees the world over. It has a detrimental effect on the productivity of organizations as well as the wellbeing of the employees. This has led to many firms taking measures to teach their employees how to deal with stress at work.
There are many triggers for work stress. Here are the most commonly cited reasons:
- A difference between what is expected of you and what you expect from the job
- An environment of unhealthy competition or constant pressure to meet deadlines
- Your own inability to perform tasks or deliver key goals
- Not being qualified or adequately trained for the job
- Not having the appropriate number of people to do the job
- Long working hours
- Lack of access to proper resources and equipment
- Sudden and unplanned organizational changes
- Harassment and discrimination of any kind
- Risky physical environment at work
- Micro-management or unethical management practices
- Insecurity about job position and security
Symptoms of work stress
You are likely to experience a number of symptoms related to work stress as you learn how to deal with stress at work. These symptoms can fall in one of three categories as listed below:
- Headaches and migraines
- Chronic fatigue
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Unusual tension within the muscles and joints
- Reduced quality and quantity of sleep
- Inflammatory conditions of the skin
- Palpitations of the heart or pain the chest
- Losing all interest and desire to perform at work
- Unexplained aggression and mood swings
- A sudden fall in productivity
- Reduced creativity
- Lack of initiative
- Maintaining distance from others at work and seeking social isolation
- Constant frustration and lack of patience
- Absenteeism even at the cost of reduced pay
- Deteriorating relations at work
- Constantly feeling tense or on the edge
- Feeling overwhelmed and unable to perform
- Lack of concentration and interest
- Being late to work or not showing up at all
- Refusal to participate in events and meetings
- Negativity and pessimism
- Impaired cognitive abilities such as focus, memory and awareness
- Depression or profuse sadness
- Demotivating others and self
- Being edgy and highly irritable
Long-term work stress can lead to chronic conditions like hyperacidity, ulcers, back ache, migraines, and fertility issues. It can also trigger weight gain, low self-esteem, depression, and suicidal thoughts. These are serious problems that demonstrate the need for everyone to know how to deal with stress at work.
Work stress can also have a negative impact on your relationships with the people you love. When you are stressed at work, you may not always be able to separate it from your personal life. In extreme cases, work stress can lead to alcohol or drug abuse, domestic violence, anger management issues, and more.
This is why it is important to take the right steps to learn how to manage work stress.
Learn how to deal with stress at work
Everyone’s capacity and ability to deal with stress varies as much as the stressors in their life. While you can learn how to manage work stress in a number of ways, it is up to you to decide which of the ways works best for you.
These general tips will teach you how to manage work stress but you will have to experiment with them and see what works best for you:
- Establish boundaries between work and personal life by creating space and cutting down on working hours
- Talk to your employer or reach out to the Human Resources department about possible solutions for your problems
- Avoid taking on too much work at the same time
- Work with your team to decide how to deal with stress at work and create an action plan to implement the solutions
- If you are finding it hard to manage all your tasks in a day, learn how to prioritize and schedule work so that you are more productive
- Ask for the training or software that you need to complete your work
- Learn relaxation techniques based on breathing or guided meditation
- Take time to indulge in hobbies
- Make sure to take time off from work and spend it with loved ones or to do the things that you enjoy
- Create a schedule and set reminders to make your essential tasks and chores easier so that you are not struggling to complete them around working hours
- If you feel unable to deal with work stress, seek help from a qualified therapist
- Cultivate healthy habits such as eating balanced meals and getting regular exercise
- Be aware that you may be resorting to unhealthy habits like excessive drinking to you’re your problems
If nothing else works or your company is unable to provide solutions even after the problems have been raised, consider changing your role in the company or switch jobs
The benefits of learning how to manage work stress
As you learn how to deal with stress at work, you are likely to experience the following benefits:
- Improvement of mental and physical health as well as general wellbeing
- Improved satisfaction with the job and higher levels of motivation
- Fewer health concerns, injuries and lost productivity
- Lesser need to take days off for illness
- Improved productivity and job-related performance
- Improved relationships at work
- Being able to be more productive at work, leading to promotions, salary hikes, and greater appreciation at work
- Healthier work life balance
Work stress in Australia
In Australia, most businesses spend more money on stress-related compensation than any other cost. Stress causes illness, back aches, absenteeism and distraction, and causes incredible damage to the productivity of the business.
According to estimates by AMP Bank, stress-related absenteeism and distraction cost the Australian economy over 30 billion AUD in 2020. While 2020 was an unusually stressful year for everyone due to the coronavirus pandemic, research in 2010-11 found that 90% of compensation claims at work were related to health problems triggered by stress. The cost of this to businesses demonstrates the need for companies and individuals to know how to deal with stress at work.
Safe Work Australia found that the occupations in Australia that are most prone to stress are members of the defence forces, police, fire fighters, school teachers, and health and welfare workers. These occupations are responsible for the largest number of stress-related compensation claims.
What can business owners do about work stress?
There are many reasons for experiencing stress at work and these vary between different industries and organizations. For your business, it may be specific to your industry or it may be something (like long working hours) that can be reduced with some tweaks.
All work environments create some amount of stress. But a workplace that is not supportive or helpful can make it worse. Having an inadequate recruitment policy or insufficient training processes mean that your employees are unable to focus on their jobs or execute them properly, leading to high stress and insecurity. These factors make it hard for businesses to teach employees how to deal with stress at work.
The first step is to conduct research at your workplace with employees and identify causes of stress. Many of these can be solved by implementing better processes, creating training and recruitment programs, and working towards higher job satisfaction.
The next step is to teach employees how to manage work stress. This may require training programs, team sessions, and working with managers to explain the cost of stress at work.
However sometimes it is necessary to bring in specialists. The growing awareness of the dangers of job stress and the cost to businesses has led to a number of consultant firms who can help. Risk management firms can conduct surveys to pinpoint the sources of stress at your workplace and the causes behind them.
Teaching your employees how to manage work stress
It is now more important than ever for employers to understand that work stress is a major health and safety concern at the workplace. In today’s corporate world, a firm is required to take all necessary measures to reduce stress and create a positive environment for employees.
As a business owner, here are some suggestions to help employees understand how to deal with stress at work:
- Ensure that there is a Human Resources department or even just a manager who can be approached by employees for discussions about work stress
- Consult health professionals to help set up a suitable work environment
- Ensure there is sufficient training for everyone employed in the organization
- Create a safe space to encourage employees to open up about stress related issues
- Make sure the office provides a safe and hygienic work environment
- Help employees maintain work-life balance by taking into consideration their professional and personal lives and minimizing clashes between the two
- Reduce the need for overtime as far as possible by increasing work flexibility
- Come up with a stress management policy in conjunction with the employees
- Encourage a cooperative work environment where your employees have freedom and autonomy to decide parts of their tasks, duties and other aspects of the job
How to manage work stress with help
Work stress may be a part of our lives but it should not be a consistent factor in your life. Very often, all it needs is to understand your professional preferences and workplace expectations to teach you how to manage work stress and to direct you towards finding a job that you enjoy.
However if you feel that your work stress is overwhelming you or causing serious health concerns, do not hesitate to look for help from:
- Your manager at work or someone you trust at the workplace
- Human Resource department or the HR manager at work
- Your family doctor
- A registered therapist or counselor online