If you’re in the workforce, you have most likely experienced work-related stress. No matter what type of job you have, you’ll have stress on the job at some point in time. You may be under pressure to meet deadlines, fulfill an obligation or complete a task you’re not sure you can pull off. While short-term stress can be healthy, when it becomes chronic, it’s overwhelming and both physically and emotionally unhealthy.
According to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) annual Stress in America Survey, 65 percent of American employees say their job is their top source of stress. Of this group, only 37 percent said they were managing their stress level well. Job-related stress is a serious issue. So what’s the other 28 percent doing about their stress? And, how are employers helping them manage on-the-job stress?
Sources of Work-Related Stress
- Low salaries
- Excessive workloads
- Lack of social support
- Non-engaging or challenging work
- Few opportunities for advancement
- Lack of control over job-related decisions
- Conflicting demands or unclear expectations
Effects of Uncontrolled Stress
Left untreated, stress can take a toll on your health and well-being.
The immediate effects of uncontrolled stress include difficulty concentrating, headaches, short temper and sleep disturbances. Chronic stress can result in anxiety, depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, insomnia, obesity and a weakened immune system.
The problem only becomes worse when employees try to “self-medicate” stress in unhealthy ways — abusing drugs, drinking excessively, overeating or using tobacco products.
How Should Employees Manage Stress?
- Identify stressors. Encourage employees to keep a journal for a week or two to identify which situations create the most stress and how they respond to each one. They should record their thoughts, feelings, the environment they were in, people involved and physical setting. Taking notes can help employees see patterns and learn how to respond better.
- Make healthy choices. Instead of dealing with stress with fast food or alcohol, encourage employees to exercise instead. It’s a great stress-buster. Yoga, walking, running, hiking, lifting weights…any form of exercise is a healthy choice. Don’t forget hobbies and favorite activities — reading, going to concerts, playing games and going out with friends.
- Take time to recharge. Encourage employees to take time to replenish and use their PTO so they can return to work at a pre-stress level. Remind employees not to let vacation days go to waste. When employees take time off, they come back to work feeling reinvigorated and ready to perform at their best.
- Learn how to relax. Deep breathing exercises, meditating and practicing mindfulness can help melt away stress. Going for a walk or simply sitting quietly outside can also help.
- Talk to their manager. Healthy employees are typically more productive. Chronically stressed employees aren’t. Encourage employees under stress to talk to their managers for help. Ensure them that the purpose of this isn’t to lay out a list of complaints, but rather to come up with an effective plan for managing stress. Managers who know their employees are better equipped to step in and provide some guidance.
- Get support. If your company has an employee assistance program (EAP), communicate this benefit to all employees so they can take advantage of it. Point out some of the services offered including online information, counseling and referral to mental health professionals, if needed. Stress that this service is completely confidential and that the company does not receive any personal information about employees.