Work Stress

Stressful work conditions can lead to poor mental health, an increasing number of workers have been reporting high job demands, low job control and a lack of social and professional support in the workplace, which, can be the precipitating factors to mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. Statistics suggest that 30-40% individuals in the work force are experiencing or have experienced work related stress at some point in their professional career.

Possible Risk Factors to Work-related stress include:

  • Organisational restructuring
  • Interruption to familiar procedures or routines.
  • Equipment failure
  • Conflict between peers and supervisors
  • Irregular and or high volumes of work
  • Inadequate training
  • Job insecurity
  • Limited opportunities for career development/promotion
  • Inadequate communication on performance
  • Unclear job description
  • Working in isolation
  • Poor physical environment (no windows, poor lighting)
  • Difficult and erratic work schedules
  • Organisational morale
  • Difficult interactions with clients/customers
  • Meaningless content

Work stress can be sparked by things such as a formal warning, bullying, victimisation, increased work pressure, deadlines and management changes. The tendency to deal with our stressors with quick fixes such as increased drinking, kicking something or smoking are often inviting at the time. However these types of “negative coping strategies” cause more harm than good in the end. Good stress management in the workplace is therefore critical to your overall health.

One of the key skills to managing workplace stress is knowing how to say no. Often workers don’t believe they have that choice but you can only do what you can in a day. So learning you have a choice is very important. Admittedly saying yes can win you brownie points in the short-term but if you take on too much and fail to deliver, it can be disastrous in the long-term.

Have confidence in your “no” when you think it’s the right decision, even though it may not be the most popular one. In the long-term, your ability to say no will be one of your most valuable attributes.

Speak Out

You can prevent exhaustion by being aware of your limits. By taking on too much, you could end up doing nothing well. Calculate how long you’ll need to deal with your current workload so that you can see if you have any extra capacity.

If you are extremely busy and your boss asks you to do more, explain your current demands and let them know that it is impossible to take on any more at present. Do this by outlining your reasons in a specific, measurable way and always offer an alternative solution. ( For example “I’m unable to get to that today but I am very happy to complete that task tomorrow for you if it can wait.”)

Learn to recognise the physical effects of stress and do something about it before it makes you really ill. Things such as tightness in your chest, nausea, heart palpitations, or generally just feeling unsettled could be signs. Beware of work stress spilling over into other areas of your life for example increased irritability with loved ones or increased alcohol consumption. (see signs & symptoms worksheet) Whatever the source of your stress, you could try to speak to your manager, or someone in your organisation that you feel comfortable talking with. You could also get outside help from your GP or counsellor. Employers have a duty of care toward you not to injure you in the workplace. They should be conducting risk assessments for work-related stress. If your stress is not work-related they may be able to support you in some way or help to take some pressure off you at work while you resolve the stress in your personal life.

Refer to our blog for further tips in managing work stress.