Can Workplace Stress Be Defined
We hear a lot about stress, but what is it? As stated by the Canadian Mental Health Association:
âStress is a reaction to a situation â it isn’t about the actual situation. We usually feel stressed when we think that the demands of the situation are greater than our resources to deal with that situation. For example, someone who feels comfortable speaking in public may not worry about giving a presentation, while someone who isn’t confident in their skills may feel a lot of stress about an upcoming presentation. Common sources of stress may include major life events, like moving or changing jobs. Long-term worries, like a long-term illness or parenting, can also feel stressful. Even daily hassles like dealing with traffic can be a source of stress.â
From: âStressâ, Canadian Mental Health Association, 2018
Workplace stress then is the harmful physical and emotional responses that can happen when there is a conflict between job demands on the employee and the amount of control an employee has over meeting these demands. In general, the combination of high demands in a job and a low amount of control over the situation can lead to stress.
Stress in the workplace can have many origins or come from one single event. It can impact on both employees and employers alike. It is generally believed that some stress is okay but when stress occurs in amounts that you cannot handle, both mental and physical changes may occur.
Taking Steps To Manage Stress
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How Can Work Stress Affect Well
Long-term exposure to work-related stressors like these can affect mental health. Research links burnout with symptoms of anxiety and depression. In some cases, this sets the stage for serious mental health problems. Indeed, one study shows younger people who routinely face heavy workloads and extreme time pressure on the job are more likely to experience major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.
High levels of stress at work and outside of it can affect physical health, too. Repeated activation of the fight-or-flight response can disrupt bodily systems and increase susceptibility to disease. For example, repeated release of the stress hormone cortisol can disturb the immune system, and raise the likelihood of developing autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimers disease. Chronic stress can also affect health by interfering with healthy behaviors, such as exercise, balanced eating, and sleep.
Work stress can also harm companies or organizations. Burnout reduces job productivity and boosts absenteeism and job turnover, and also leads to conflict between coworkers, causing stress to spread within a workplace.
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Workplace Interventions For Reducing Stress
Workplace stress is preventable and identifying the potential sources of stress to employees in an organization is the first step in addressing them. Effective interventions for reducing workplace stress can be classified as primary, secondary, and tertiary.â
Primary interventions involve proactive measures to prevent stress by removing or reducing potential stressors. This level of intervention focuses on the sources of physical and psychosocial stress in the workplace. Examples of primary interventions include:â
- Providing breaks and nap-times for employeesâ
- Increasing employee participation in decision making and work planningâ
- Increasing time and resources for completing specific job tasksâ
- Matching job description with employee skills and qualificationsâ
- Creating clear promotion and reward pathwaysâ
- Substituting with safer equipment and technologyâ
- Establishing control measures to reduce worker’s exposure to occupational hazardsâ
How To Handle Stress At Work
- Luana Marques, PhD, Contributor
If youre currently working, you probably know what it feels like to be stressed on the job. A must-do project arrives without warning. Three emails stack up for each one you delete. Phones ring, meetings are scheduled, a coworker drops the ball on a shared assignment.
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The Hse Management Standards
The HSE is responsible for the inspection of workplaces and for bringing prosecutions when regulations are breached. In 2004 the HSE published the Management Standards as a guide for employers to help them understand and control the causes of occupational stress. The Management Standards identify six areas of management behaviour that have been identified as potential causes of employee occupational stress: demands, control, support, relationships, role and change. Managers who fail to meet the standards are potential hazards to the health of the employees that they manage. Thus an employer that produces a work environment in which there are high demands, little prior consultation before the introduction of change, low levels of worker control, little support and a failure to manage interpersonal relationships will be subjecting employees to risks that are known to be associated with increased levels of occupational stress, as with the Demand Control Support model.
Job Stress And Health
Stress sets off an alarm in the brain, which responds by preparing the body for defensive action. The nervous system is aroused and hormones are released to sharpen the senses, quicken the pulse, deepen respiration, and tense the muscles. This response is important because it helps us defend against threatening situations. The response is preprogrammed biologically. Everyone responds in much the same way, regardless of whether the stressful situation is at work or home.
Short-lived or infrequent episodes of stress pose little risk. But when stressful situations go unresolved, the body is kept in a constant state of activation, which increases the rate of wear and tear to biological systems. Ultimately, fatigue or damage results, and the ability of the body to repair and defend itself can become seriously compromised. As a result, the risk of injury or disease escalates.
Health care expenditures are nearly 50% greater for workers who report high levels of stress.Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
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Wellness Programs And Initiatives
Wellness programs benefit the business in many ways, one of these benefits being that it can reduce stress in the workplace. These campaigns can focus on the potential causes of stress and teach people how to deal with them effectively. This could include working to deadlines or traffic congestion â both of which workers come into contact with as part of their working day. Exercise can also help reduce stress, highlighting how companies can use health initiatives to combat the problem .
Are There Organizations That Can Help*
Yes, there are many. Your family doctor can often recommend a professional for you. Other examples include the Employee Assistance Programs or associations such as the Canadian Mental Health Association or the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction to name just a few.
- EAP programs are confidential, short term, counselling services for employees with problems that affect their work performance. The services of EAP providers are often purchased by your company. Check with your human resources department for contact information.
- CMHA‘s programs are meant to ensure that people whose mental health is endangered will find the help needed to cope with crisis, regain confidence, and return to community, family and job.
- The CCSA promotes informed debate on substance abuse issues, and disseminates information on the nature, and assists organizations involved in substance abuse treatment, prevention and educational programming.
directly for more information about their services. Please note that mention of these organizations does not represent a recommendation or endorsement by CCOHS of these organizations over others of which you may be aware.)
For more information on mental health and workplace health, see the OSH Answers:
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Stress Due Monotony Or Boredom
This type of work-related stress is usually lesser known. However, monotonous and repetitive work can also cause stress. With boredom and lack of stimuli, the day can drag along.
Signs of stress due to monotony are demotivation, unwillingness, and apathy. Suffering this type of stress continuously can lead to the boreout syndrome.
Dealing with stress due to monotony or boredom involves finding meaning in our work. It also helps to find a meaning to the boring tasks and look for a way to make them more entertaining. Seeking stimuli, challenges and asking for more responsibilities are other suggestions.
The Impacts Of Workplace Stress
Workplace stressors are classified as physical and psychosocial. Physical stressors include noise, poor lighting, poor office or work layout, and ergonomic factors, such as bad working postures.
Psychosocial stressors are, arguably, the most predominant stress factors. These include high job demands, inflexible working hours, poor job control, poor work design and structure, bullying, harassments, and job insecurity.
Workplace stress not only affects the worker, it also has adverse effects on company performance well. The effects of job-related strain are evident in workers’ physical health, mental health, and their behavior.
These effects occur in a continuum, beginning as distress in response to stressors. Distress, in turn, leads to elevated blood pressure and anxiety, which increase the risk of coronary heart disease, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders.â
The impact of stress on cardiovascular disease has been well established: Studies have shown that workplace stress is a strong risk factor for preludes to cardiovascular disease and of adverse cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke.â
There is also a growing body of evidence that work-related stress increases one’s risk of diabetes. Other physical health problems linked to workplace stress include immune deficiency disorders, musculoskeletal disorders including chronic back pain, and gastrointestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome.â
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Coping With Work Anxiety
There are some strategies you can use to help you manage your anxiety about work. Know that anxiety at work can be contagious, and try to stay away from people who make you feel worse, as much as possible.
Take a break and talk to someone if you are feeling anxious. Use self-help techniques to help you calm down and seek professional help if work anxiety is interfering with your daily life both at work and at home.
Avoid unhelpful coping strategies such as binge eating, substance abuse, overuse of caffeine, abuse of prescription medications. Here are some strategies you can try during and after your workday to help with your anxiety:
- Be sure to make time for yourself away from work.
- Find things that make you laugh and smile.
- Take lunch breaks and share a meal with others outside of your work area.
- Go for walks outdoors on your breaks when possible.
- Change your scenery to get out of an emotional rut.
- Focus on life outside of work such as hobbies and friends.
- Reflect on the good things in your job and your life.
- Examine what you fear will happen and ask yourself whether it is an irrational fear.
If you or a loved one are struggling with anxiety, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
Examples Of Mental Stress At Work
We can provide benefits for mental stress that can be shown to have resulted from one or more substantial sources of work-related stress or a reaction to one or more traumatic work-related events.;
Here are some examples of work-related mental stress injuries that would be considered for benefits and services.
- A teacher is regularly subjected to demeaning comments from her vice-principal, quite often in front of her teaching colleagues and develops an anxiety disorder as a result. If this situation resembles yours, you could be considered for benefits and services.
- A housekeeping attendant is regularly subjected to inappropriate and harassing comments from several co-workers. He attempts to confront his co-workers but the harassment continues and in fact increases, and he develops a depression disorder as a result. If this situation resembles yours, you could be considered for benefits and services.
- A paramedic is called to the scene of a fatal multiple car accident and afterward suffers recurrent nightmares and flashbacks for a prolonged period. If this situation resembles yours, you could be considered for benefits and services.
If your mental stress is caused by your employers decisions or actions related to your employment, you will not likely be eligible for benefits, and you may want to look for other resources that may be available to support you.;
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Coping With Stress At Work
Working hard should not be confused with overworking at the expense of relationships and physical health.
Coping with stress at work.
Everyone who has ever held a job has, at some point, felt the pressure of work-related stress. Any job can have stressful elements, even if you love what you do. In the short-term, you may experience pressure to meet a deadline or to fulfill a challenging obligation. But when work stress becomes chronic, it can be overwhelmingand harmful to both physical and emotional health.
Unfortunately, such long-term stress is all too common. In fact, has consistently found that work is cited as a significant source of stress by a majority of Americans. You cant always avoid the tensions that occur on the job. Yet you can take steps to manage work-related stress.
Can Stress Negatively Affect Our Health And Safety
Yes, stress can have an impact on your overall health. Our bodies are designed, pre-programmed if you wish, with a set of automatic responses to deal with stress. The problem is that our bodies deal with all types of stress in the same way. Experiencing stress for long periods of time will activate this system, but it doesn’t get the chance to “turn off”.
Common effects of stress on the body include:
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Stress Due To Overload
This type of work-related stress is characterised by a feeling of overwhelm by obligations, responsibilities and tasks. We feel like we have more work than we can handle. It seems to us that no matter how hard we work, we do not advance.
We can also feel stress due to overload when assigned tasks exceed our knowledge and skills.
All of this can lead to tension, anxiety, mental block, and even panic attacks.
When we suffer stress due to overload, it is convenient to stop and reflect on our priorities, the tasks to tackle and our ability to carry them out.
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Occupational Health: Stress At The Workplace
Work-related stress is the response people may have when presented with work demands and pressures that are not matched to their knowledge and abilities and which challenge their ability to cope. Stress occurs in a wide range of work circumstances but is often made worse when employees feel they have little support from supervisors and colleagues, as well as little control over work processes. There is often confusion between pressure or challenge and stress, and sometimes this is used to excuse bad management practice.
Pressure at the workplace is unavoidable due to the demands of the contemporary work environment. Pressure perceived as acceptable by an individual may even keep workers alert, motivated, able to work and learn, depending on the available resources and personal characteristics. However, when that pressure becomes excessive or otherwise unmanageable it leads to stress. Stress can damage an employees’ health and the business performance.
Work-related stress can be caused by poor work organization , by poor work design , poor management, unsatisfactory working conditions and lack of support from colleagues and supervisors.
Research findings show that the most stressful type of work is that which values excessive demands and pressures that are not matched to workers knowledge and abilities, where there is little opportunity to exercise any choice or control, and where there is little support from others.
How Do Hses Management Standards Work
To help with identifying risk assessment, HSE has produced its Management;Standards , including targets for organizations to aim towards.;There is one standard for each risk factor. Demands, for example, covers issues like;workload, work patterns and the work environment, and includes guidance on what;should be happening in your organization if the Standard is being achieved. The target;is for all organizations to match the performance of the top 20% of employers that are;successfully minimising work-related stress. This means your employer will need to:
- Assess the risk and potential causes of stress within your organization for example;by looking at sickness absence records, or conducting specific stress-related surveys;or focus groups;
- Use these to assess how the organization is performing in relation to the six risk;factors. This includes managers talking to their teams to identify stress hot spots;
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Management Of Health And Safety At Work Regulations 1999
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 was introduced to replace a number of other previous regulations in place, brought in to supplement and extend the earlier legislation in place. It moves the focus over to the duties of the employers and their employees, stressing the importance of risk assessments to create a safer workplace for everyone.
It requires the Employer toâ¦
1. Assess the risks to health and safety for their employees and others who may be affected by their work.2. Make appropriate arrangements in managing health and safety. Employers of 5 or more workers should record these arrangements in their written risk assessment.
3. Undertake any necessary health surveillance regarding the employees when it has been noted by the risk assessment.
4. Appoint competent employees to assist in the above measures.
5. Establish procedures to be followed by employees if situations ever arise that could present serious or imminent danger.
6. Provide relevant information on health and safety in an understandable guide.
7. Ensure employees are given adequate health and safety training.
It requires the Employees toâ¦
1. Report any shortcomings in health and safety arrangements, including dangerous situations.
2. Use equipment in accordance with training and instruction they have been given.
3. Take reasonable care of their own health and safety and those around them that may be affected by their actions.