Work stress: How to relieve the pressure on employees
Left unchecked it will impact workers and the bottom line.
Whether it originates from within or without, the pressure to work at an optimum pace and performance level takes a toll, which can negatively impact employees and the company. Studies show stressful working conditions are associated with increased absenteeism, tardiness, high staff turnover, reduced productivity and product or service quality, and increased compensation costs, all of which have a negative effect on the bottom line.
The results of stress on workers may include tobacco, alcohol or drug abuse, violent/bullying behaviour, sleep problems, anxiety, depression, inability to concentrate and irritability. Chronic stress may also cause health issues such as back problems, heart problems, stomach ulcers and hypertension, and it can weaken the immune system.
Some factors are more likely to lead to stress in the workplace than others. Examples include:
Job design. It’s not matched to worker skills and abilities; poor work shift design.
Role. Lack of clarity about responsibilities and/or expectations. Conflicting roles and/or multiple supervisors.
Relationships. Constant discord, bullying, harassment or openly aggressive behaviour.
Control. Not having it when it comes to planning and deciding how work should be completed, or solving problems.
Training. Lack of it to equip employees with the knowledge and skills they need to do their jobs.
Demands. Unreasonable or unrealistic performance targets.
Culture. Poor communication, poor social environment, lack of support and respect.
Physical environment. Excessive noise, poor air quality, uncomfortable temperatures.
Although some of these factors may occur in a workplace without leading to stress, the risk increases when they occur over prolonged periods.
But there are some things employers can do to lower stress levels.
Treat all employees in a fair and respectful manner. Assess risks by looking for pressures that could cause high and prolonged levels of stress, then follow up with appropriate action to prevent pressures from becoming negative stressors.
Match the workload to workers’ capabilities. Clearly define roles and responsibilities, and design meaningful jobs that are stimulating and provide opportunities for employees to use their skills.
As much as possible, allow employees to have control over their tasks. Provide them with the training, skills and resources needed to do their jobs and establish work schedules that are compatible with demands and responsibilities outside the job.
Involve employees in decision-making and seek their input on issues affecting their jobs. Also improve communications and reduce uncertainty about career development and future employment prospects.
Finally, value and recognize individuals’ results and skills, provide opportunities for social interaction among employees and provide access to Employee Assistance Programs.
Respectful workplaces that encourage good communications and healthy work systems are more likely to have healthy and productive workforces.
What employees can do
The source of the stress is often something that can’t be changed immediately, so it’s important to find ways of maintaining good mental health while being proactive when dealing with stress. Tips include:
• Relax, take several deep breaths throughout the day or have regular
• Take 10 minutes at the beginning of each day to prioritize and organize
• Be constructive and make practical suggestions.
• Be realistic about what can be changed.
• Take breaks. Go for a walk at lunch or do something enjoyable that’s
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) in Hamilton contributed this article. CCOHS provides information, training, education, management systems and solutions that support health and safety programs and the prevention of injury and illness in the workplace. Visit www.ccohs.ca.
This article was featured in the January-February 2019 issue of PLANT Magazine.