Work-related stress is experienced by employees when the work demands exceed the person’s ability to cope or control them. Work-related psychosocial risks and stress with their associated adverse health and business outcomes affect workplaces worldwide.
Many studies all across the world illustrate the financial costs of work-related stress and the psychosocial risks that manifest and can be quantified in a variety of forms, e.g. productivity loss, health care costs, absenteeism, etc. Ultimately, workspace stress and its associated effects on health and mental well-being will impose a financial burden on individuals, organizations, and societies.
Situations that are more likely to cause stress are those that are unfamiliar or uncontrollable, either uncertain or ambiguous, involving conflict or loss or performance expectations. One of the primary reason for workplace stress is excessively long working hours that too unpaid or “presenteeism”.
Stress takes a significant toll on an individual’s physical health. Weight fluctuations are the most common symptom of anxiety. The sleeping pattern also gets affected by stress. Fatigue and frequent headaches are observed in every stress sufferer generally. Gastrointestinal upset is also a consequence of acute stress.
Cardiovascular diseases, autoimmune diseases, peptic ulcers and type 2 diabetes are common long-term health issues triggered by stress. The health issues become so severe and complicated; many older adults have involuntary job loss due to low productivity.
The onset of depression, due to workplace stress, also acts as a trigger for alcohol and substance abuse in an individual for the perceived ‘stress-relieving’ effects which is a misconception and can be verified by any medical advisor.
Aggression and mood swings are also commonly observed in people suffering from stress. There is evidence that workplace stress is related to a decline in the quality of relationships with spouse, children and other family members. Diminishing creativity and growing impatience also mark the onset of stress. People render to isolation more often when they suffer from anxiety. Smoking has become prevalent in people undergoing stress-related issues.
The workplace stress has impacts on organization cost as well as employee’s health. Seeing the effect on its revenue and efficiency, organizations have started psychometrically profiling those that may be at risk of stress due to their psychological make-up.
But this won’t help anybody as it risks a skill shortage and it turns workplace stress into a vicious cycle as with limited staff demands would be placed on fewer employees. Therefore instead of playing the blame game organization should make specific systematic changes to reduce stress caused by structural level problems.
They can maintain an appropriate number of employees to avoid individual work overload and overtime. They can make sure working conditions are adapted to people’s differing physical and mental aptitudes. The organization should have a work culture such that employee is allowed to participate in the design of his/her work situation, and the processes of change affecting his/her work. Hence an agile working environment could help beat workplace stress.
Providing employee skill training will go a long way in helping to avoid factors that trigger stress. The organization should also concentrate on improving internal communication. Inputs from all ranks should be encouraged. The organization should make communication a weekly process.
The organization can provide apps for work-related sharing on phones and tablets. They will provide all information to all the employees in written and make them feel included. More company-sponsored counselling programs and health promotion programs should be initiated.
The organization should encourage social activities as coworkers get to know each other, expectations and communication barriers are broken down, greasing the wheels for more accessible future interactions. They can provide common transportation and private transport for their employees according to ranks.
This way, they don’t have to drive and deal with the traffics. They can use the time to listen to music or watch cartoons or comedy clips. This will help them relax. Social activities like dumb charades, atlas, antakshari can be organized to engage all and have better bonding which will, in return, help the organization. The organizations can allow remote working for jobs that don’t require a worker’s presence in the office regularly.
First and the foremost individual should be able to identify signs of stress burnout. They should keep their perfectionism in check. Individuals need to learn how to prioritize and organize. They should not beat themselves up on little things. Car polling should be encouraged by individuals to deal with commute stress. They need to learn to say NO. They should be strong enough to leave the job if it is toxic to them.
(This article has been contributed by Vertika K Bindal, Shuvendu Ranabijuli, Richa Choudhary and Nikita Chapke, MBA students of DMS, IIT-Delhi)