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Stress At Work Can Ruin Your Life – And Your Workplace


We all feel ‘stressed’ sometimes, on days when things just don’t seem to go our way.

However an increasing number of Australians are reporting symptoms of workplace stress, and this is a serious issue for both employees and employers.

Workplace stress is technically defined as what occurs when the pressures, demands, tasks or environment are not matched with an employee’s knowledge or abilities – and this challenges their ability to cope.

People experiencing stress at work tend to characterise it as an overwhelming feeling to quit their job and escape to an island, farm, or anywhere but the office!

When people feel overwhelmed they lose confidence, become irritable or withdrawn and find less enjoyment in their work.

This in turn reduces productivity and increases absenteeism and presenteeism (when employees turn up to work but they are not ‘fit for work’).

Workplace stress is estimated to cost employers over $10 billion and 3 working days per employee per year (Source: Medibank Private Workplace Stress report, Aug 2008, http://www.medibank.com.au/Client/Documents/Pdfs/The-Cost-of-Workplace-Stress.pdf).

Some of the causes of stress at work include:

 

Work factors

Excessive work hours

Unreasonable performance demands

Physical environment

Noise and overcrowding

Health and safety risks

Organisational practices

Poor communication

Unclear roles and responsibilities

Workplace change

Insecurity in job

High turnover

Relationships

Office politics

Competition and conflicts

Poor relationships with superiors

Bullying or harassment

(Source: Helpguide.org, Nov 2010, www.helpguide.org/mental/work_stress_management.htm)

There is no formula to identify stress as it’s subjective – what causes stress in one person may not have the same effect on another.

Do any of these symptoms of workplace stress apply to you?:

  • Feeling anxious, irritable, or depressed
  • Apathy, loss of interest in work
  • Problems sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Muscle tension or headaches
  • Stomach problems
  • Social withdrawal
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Using alcohol or drugs to cope

In my experience, people suffering stress at work are reluctant to seek help because they feel incompetent or worthless. They think if they come clean about their feelings they will be persecuted or replaced for admitting ‘failure’.

Often, instead of facing the situation, employees simply leave, which impacts on business turnover and costs money to recruit and train the next hire.

If you are sitting up at night pondering your own failure and wondering how you are going to go to work in the morning, take into consideration this important fact.

Of all the employees I’ve worked with who have had a challenge with workplace stress, not once did the employer hear their concerns and laugh, tell them to toughen up or fire them and hire a replacement.

Mostly employers have been completely oblivious to the suffering of their employees and will bend over backwards to sort out the problem.

But here is the secret people – you are probably the only one who knows how you are feeling and YOU need to let someone know!

For anybody grappling with how to address the issue of workplace stress, the following website http://www.helpguide.org/mental/work_stress_management.htm has a really good guide to help you get started.

If you are an employer and you want to know about preventing workplace stress, or you are just interested in how to reduce absenteeism and increase productivity and profits, stay tuned.

In my next blog post I’ll provide tips for a black-belt ability to predict, pre-empt and prevent employee stress, and what to do if you already have a stressed employee.

Kate Klease is an executive at Vantage Human Capital, a specialist recruitment and human resources consulting firm that helps ensure clients have appropriate strategies in place to successfully retain, motivate and manage their people. http://www.vantagehumancapital.com.au/

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