Managing stress at work can be tough. Stress at the workplace is becoming a major concern among working-class individuals across the world. Work-related stress has not only affected the work culture of major corporations but also the personal lives and physical well-being of its employees. Added to this, stress at work leads to a reduction in the productivity of the employee, and, in turn, of the organization.
Stress at the workplace arises when the employee is unable to cope with the expectations and demands of the job or when the working environment is not healthy. A toxic work environment puts unmanageable pressure on its employees along with having needlessly harsh restrictions at the workplace. Offices are environments where employees spend one of the biggest portions of their lifetimes and as such should be conducive and healthy in every possible way. Other typical sources of work-related stress include constant shifting of job roles, changing jobs randomly, lack of job security, and redundancy at the workplace.
Symptoms of work-related stress
The symptoms of stress at work can be categorized into three groups- physical symptoms, psychological symptoms, and behavioral symptoms. A combination of some or all of these symptoms point towards work-related stress. An overview of the various symptoms is mentioned below:
- Physical symptoms- There are a wide array of physical symptoms associated with work-related stress disorders. Conditions such as extreme fatigue, heart palpitations, bouts of headaches, insomnia, lack of appetite, and various kinds of dermatological issues are all related to work-related stress disorder. Most of these symptoms are varied and “fuzzy” enough to be misdiagnosed as exhaustion or be regarded as problems in attitude. For example, being in a constant state of exhaustion might be seen as slacking off, when it might be a sign of a deeper problem. Various kinds of muscular tensions have also been associated with work-related stress.
- Psychological symptoms- Psychological symptoms of work-related stress are easy to identify due to the severity of their nature. Anxiety and depression are the most noticeable and critical psychological symptoms of work-related stress. These symptoms are so severe that they often come in the way of being functional and responsible. Pessimism and a constant state of low self-esteem are also major symptoms. If left unchecked, these symptoms can worsen leading to cognitive difficulties such as problems in remembering things at work and being unable to make proper decisions.
- Behavioral symptoms- These symptoms are difficult to identify and pinpoint. Since they are related to the behavior, they are often misinterpreted as character traits. This is exactly why it is important to know and understand about work-related stress disorders. An easy way to identify them would be to notice a repeating pattern in unmanageable behavior. Some examples of such behavior include increasing absenteeism or an increase in the number of sick leaves, unnecessary aggression, reduced thinking power and creativity, and difficulties in interpersonal relationships. All of this leads to a constant drop in work performance and random mood swings. Employees who suffer from work-related stress often find themselves isolated at their workplaces and suffer from a complete lack of interest.
Key triggers for work-related stress
Managing stress at work can become easier if the key stress points or triggers are identified and managed accordingly. These triggers can be a part of the office culture, the workplace, the nature of the job and the candidate along with various other factors. Some of the key triggers of stress at work are mentioned below:
- Organization’s culture- The culture of the organization plays one of the most important roles in the causing or managing of stress at work. A healthy work culture that supports its employees during times of professional pressure will have healthy employees who grow and become stronger instead of suffering from work-related stress. Bad culture leads to a toxic work environment where the workplace often feels abusive, and the pressure that is felt is almost unmanageable.
- Bad HR practices- Having a strong HR unit is paramount to avoiding work-related stress. Companies with weak HR policies often fail to provide a proper working environment and job security. Some of the major stress points related to HR include bad management practices, lack of support to the employees, and conflict in job roles. Employees are often not given due attention, and their voices and concerns are not heard or noted. Such HR practices are extremely unhealthy and lead to stress at work. The company must also actively participate in identifying and celebrating the efforts put in by its employees. Doing so can create a positive and inspiring atmosphere.
- Excessively taxing job role- In order to avoid stress at workplace, the candidate must be a perfect fit for the job role. This calls for proper hiring protocols and training programs that prepare the employees for the nature of the job. Job roles which are physically taxing or mentally tiring often lead to work-related stress. Such conditions of stress work stress can be managed through self-analysis and shifting to a more suited job role.
- Trauma- Past trauma or bad experiences can induce work-related stress if similar working conditions are faced by the employee. Additionally, trauma caused at the current place of work due to bad behavior from colleagues, extremely harsh deadlines, job crisis, and a lack of work-life balance can also induce stress at workplace. While the other triggers are easy to manage, trauma is internal in nature and often requires professional help. Companies can also take steps to prevent trauma by managing their critical decisions such as layoffs in a better fashion.
Self-help techniques for managing stress at work
A lot of companies today keep an in-house therapist or psychologist in order to help their employees deal with managing stress at work. While professional help is necessary in severe cases of work-related stress disorders, there are a lot of steps the employees can take on their own to manage their stress at work better. Some of these steps are mentioned below:
- Actively thinking and planning for change- Stress at work often stems from extreme forms of conflict and unhappiness at the current workplace. Either the employee feels unsuitable for the job or the work environment is not the right fit. These points of conflict or unhappiness should be noted down by the employees. Making a list of such problems will enable them to identify the aspects of their professional lives that they need to change in order to remain stress-free at work. Employees should also actively plan for making these changes and must make a detailed list of actionable points for achieving the changes.
- Opening a line of communication with upper management- Starting a dialogue with the upper management such as the employee’s manager can help in managing stress. By openly discussing the problematic areas with the manager, employees can feel comfortable and can express their concerns freely. The work culture needs to be open and friendly for this to happen. Employees can also choose to talk to respective HR managers who can work upon the changes that the employee needs for a healthy working routine. Added to this, starting a dialogue has the added advantage of directly addressing stressful triggers.
- Avoiding harmful forms of release- Employees who suffer from work-related stress disorders often find release through the use of various substances such as tobacco and alcohol. Engaging in these substances as a release from stress at work is doubly harmful. It does not eliminate the true source of the stress, and it leads to degrading health. These substances also form a dependency which weakens the constitution of the employees. Avoiding these harmful substances is a vital step in managing stress at work.
- Taking care of health- This step is often overlooked but is of critical importance. Getting regular exercise and having a healthy nutrient-rich diet can help people manage their stress better. Through exercise and diet, the body and brain are provided with oxygen and an abundance of nutrients which keeps them healthy and fresh. Individuals with a healthy diet and regular exercise are less liable to fall prey to work-related stress disorders. Diet and exercise not only help in managing the physical symptoms of this problem but also helps with a lot of psychological and behavioral difficulties as well.
- Consciously seeking help- While it is natural to feel overburdened and immobile while suffering from work-related stress, it is important that employees actively seek out help. Addressing this problem should be their prime concern, and they should plan towards it. Getting treatment at the right time can prevent serious complications such as mental health issues and physical problems.
- Being organized- One of the most effective ways of managing stress at work is being organized. Having a to-do list or a SCRUM table can greatly improve visibility of work content and help in managing bigger projects. Through prioritizing the various activities and projects, employees can manage their work better and remain stress-free at their workplace.