How to handle workplace stress

March 22, 2016

Stress is a big battle for all of us in today's world — both in and out of the office. If you do not control stress, it can cause all kinds of issues. 

A study by Health Advocate, Inc., entitled "Stress in the Workplace: Meeting the Challenge," indicates "the incidence of reported stress among employees in recent years and its impact on the bottom line has made the management of stress an urgent business strategy for American companies."

Stress affects the bottom line of a business, but it has also raised healthcare costs in recent years. So what can be done to help alleviate this growing problem?

We can't simply say, "I will eliminate all of my stress." This is unrealistic, because some stress is actually good for keeping you on your toes. However, there are certain factors that make stress more difficult to control as well as understand.

There is some good news, though. Organizations are recognizing they have a shared responsibility in helping their employees. The Health Advocate study further emphasizes that with "a dual strategy of organizational change and individual stress management."

"Businesses can be proactive and promote healthier, more productive employees and reduce healthcare costs," according to the study. "Stress, very simply, is a built-in condition. Humans are hard-wired to have a physical and psychological 'stress' reaction when facing a perceived threat, whether it is real or not."

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), the top stressors for people in the workplace are:

  • Low salaries (43 percent)
  • Heavy workloads (43 percent)
  • Lack of opportunity for growth and advancement (43 percent)
  • Unrealistic job expectations (40 percent)
  • Job security (34 percent)

Work/life issues are two opposing dichotomies that will always be part of the stress equation. Employees can benefit from such perks as flex time, longer lunch hours, telecommuting or job sharing to help in decreasing stress for all concerned. 

But there has to be a give and take not only from the organization side, but also by the individual. The individual must be able to make compromises to have a better overall life. Giving in to the stress can ultimately lead to depression, a decline in one's health and a grave impact on job performance.

What are some of the strategies that both individuals and companies can do to help stem the tide of stress? According to the Health Advocate study, "companies evaluate the scope of stress in the workplace by looking at absenteeism, illness and turnover rates and performance problems. From there, employee surveys and/or committees can help determine specific stressors and if they are concentrated in one specific department or are companywide. It is also important to ask employees what strategies may provide remedies."

Stress affects men and women differently. Since women often have additional requirements, such as running the household and being the caregiver, their stress factor is of greater significance.

"A report in 2005 found the odds of association of cumulative job stress with poor mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue among women to be 1.4 to 7.1, compared to 1.8 to 4.6 for men," the study relates. "For working women, caregiving and balancing work/life issues is a significant stressor. Well over half of the caregivers in the United States are women, and 59 percent are also employed."

Finally, the goal in the management of stress is a two-sided coin. Communication is the best path forward, and strategies do not need to be elaborate. Simple planning by the organization along with employee input will go a long way in the handling of stress in the workplace.

Everyone must take responsibility in the managing of stress. Stress will always be there, but how we all handle it will make all the difference in the world.

By: Betty Boyd 

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