Workplace Stress and How to Cope With it

Workplace Stress and How to Cope With it

June 5, 2019 0 By Anthony Ekanem

Most of us readily acknowledge that stress is an inescapable part of life in our modern society. It is in the home, the schools, and the workplace. Workplace stress management is becoming a buzz-word of sorts, as more and more companies are now seeking ways to cope with workplace stressors.

Stress Defined

Stress is the body’s natural response to a challenge, situation or demand. It is a feeling of emotional or physical tension, which can come from any event or thought that makes an individual feel frustrated, angry, or nervous.  Stress can be positive, such as when it helps you avoid danger or meet a deadline.  It can also be negative, especially when it lasts for a long time, in which case it becomes harmful to health.

What is Workplace Stress?

Workplace stress is the harmful physical and emotional responses that happen when there is a conflict between job demands on an employee and the amount of control over meeting those demands! Workplace stress can also be said to be an employee’s response to workloads and excessive pressure, that when matched to their knowledge and abilities, challenge their ability to cope with the assigned task!

Stress at workplace is unavoidable and is sometimes necessary due to the demand of the present-day work environment. Stress in the workplace can be either positive stress that results in greater productivity, or negative stress that cuts productivity. It is when stressors are too demanding and exerting too much pressure on the worker, that they become negative.

Stress that is acceptable is the one that keeps the workers alert, motivated, promoted and rewarded. However, when the pressure at workplace becomes excessive, unbearable and unmanageable, this leads to negative stress, and this in turn can be harmful to the individual, their family, or the job. Workplace stress of a harmful nature is intense, continued, or repeated.

Common Cause of Workplace Stress

  • Excessive workload
  • Long hours of work
  • Tedious tasks
  • Low pay
  • Unconducive work environments
  • Inefficient organizational practices
  • Poor interpersonal relationships with colleagues
  • Sudden workplace changes

Who is Affected by Workplace Stress?

Everyone is affected at some time or the other. As the world tries to increase output and limit the time required to accomplish a task, workplace stress hits both blue and white-collar workers. Evidence indicates that work that was once considered non-stressful is now approaching high-stress ratings.

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest, increasing numbers of occupations are inching up towards the scales top. A stress table prepared by the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology lists law enforcement officers at the 7.7 level. Airline pilots are close behind at 7.5. And while they may seem to cause patients stress, dentists are rated 7.3. Even teachers have a high stress level of 6.2. Adolescents and older workers often have more trouble coping with workplace stress, and women may have more trouble than men.

Family Stress Increases Workplace Stress

When a balance between work and family is missing, workplace stress is increased. Two-income families and single parent families are especially affected. Time-sensitive work can make greater demands than the worker can handle. Work schedules may change, creating stress in handling children. Harsh or bullying treatment at work can cycle into family stress, and back to workplace stress.  People who have high levels of stress in the family will be more affected by workplace stress.

Health Impacts of Stress

It is well accepted that stress produces a fight-or-flight response in humans. The trouble is, we cannot easily fight workplace stress. We might want to land a punch on the nose of the boss that makes unreasonable demands, but we cannot. We might want to quit on the spot, but we need the income, so we are not able to carry through on our fight-or-flight response.

Frustrated body systems trying to cope with this dilemma may give in to consequences such as chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety, migraine, insomnia, hypertension, heart disease, substance abuse, loss of libido, and a host of other problems.

Some employers have instituted workplace stress management programmes, with more or less success. In many cases though, a programme of self-help for workplace stress, without individual research, might be more effective.

Self-Help for Workplace Stress

If you were to take a self-help course entitled, Workplace Stress Management, you would expect to learn practical things you could do to cope with workplace stress. Reports and research aside, you would want specific self-help. You would want steps that could help you begin to cope with the problem.

The following practical steps will get you started. Write your answers.

  • Analyze your job. Do you have a clear job description that tells what is expected of you? Are you sufficiently qualified for the work expected? Do you have the tools you need? Does the job use your talent?
  • Analyze your workplace. Is it clean and safe? Is it attractive and laid out well? Are things easy to find? Is it quiet enough for work? Is there a quiet room where you can take a break? Can you take a 5-minute break every hour or so? Are your work hours reasonable?
  • Analyze your feelings. Do you feel that your job is meaningful? Do you think you get enough feedback from others as to whether or not you are doing well? Do you feel as though people see you as an individual rather than a resource? Do you feel that you have the right to say no when the workload becomes too heavy?

Once you have answered every question, decide what action you will take to change any unwanted situations.

You can, for example, request a clear job description if you don’t have one. You can ask to discuss job expectations. You can request missing tools that would reduce stress.

You can often clean or rearrange a workplace. You can make ergonomic changes for physical safety. With thought, you can create better work flow, or relocate needed tools.

If your job seems meaningless, be creative. Look around for new ways of doing the job, of cutting costs or increasing productivity. A challenge can make a big difference in coping with workplace stress.

Finally, learn to say no to unnecessary demands. For example, if you were asked to help a habitual long-lunch co-worker by adding part of their work to your own, agree to do it once, but explain respectfully to your supervisor why the practice is unfair to both of you. If you are expected to remain at work until the last person leaves, even though you arrive an hour before anyone else, ask respectfully if consideration can be given, since your work is done early.

You will best cope with workplace stress when you learn which monkeys are yours to feed, and decline to feed someone else’s monkey.