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If you can’t avoid work stress, manage it

Work stress management is a global challenge that does not segregate who is affected. Employees’ face this challenge from time to time. The onus is upon employers to pick out the challenge to sustain a healthy workforce.

Hamdi Ali Shuriye

All over the world, workplace stress is a serious employment issue that is likely to eat into an organisation’s profits, reduce efficiency and also cause the best staff to resign. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), everyone who has ever held a job at some point felt the pressure of work-related stress. The association points out that any job can have stressful elements. This affects even employees who love their jobs. “In short term, you may experience pressure to meet a deadline or fulfil a challenging obligation. But when work stress becomes chronic, it can be overwhelming and harmful to both physical and emotional health.” APA notes.

The association is also quick to point out that unfortu­nately, long term stress is a common occurrence in many work places. APA links these stress situations to; low sal­aries, excessive workloads, few opportunities for growth or advancement, work not being challenging or engaging, lack of social support, not having enough control over job-related decisions and conflicting demands or unclear performance expectations. Apparently, there are little or no studies done touching on Work Stress Management is­sues in Africa. Most of the studies are done in the UK, USA and parts of Asia.

An article published in Wharton University’s website says global competition, downsizing and constant state of being electronically tethered to the office are combining to create unprecedented level of stress. Wharton Profes­sor, Stewart Friedman is quoted saying: “If you look at the span of the last 50 years, we know people are working more, that more of their waking attention is devoted to work and work-related decisions and it’s a challenge be­cause ubiquity of technology has enabled 24/7 communi­cation.” He says most of them did not grow up with “these tools” and that they are still adjusting to what it means to create meaningful boundaries between work and the oth­er places in our life so that’s a new skill.”

“ Stress at work is increasing, and the pressure is greater than ever.”

Stress at work is increasing, and the pressure is greater than ever, especially in the

The article quotes the co-author of a book, “Performing Under Pressure: The Science of Doing Your Best When It Matters Most, Hendrie Weisinger. The other book’s writ­er is J. P. Pawliw. On his part, Weisinger is of the opinion that contributing factors of stress at work include global competition, longevity, social media and materialistic val­ues. “There has been a change from the manufacturing business culture, which emphasized production output, to a contributing factors include global competition, lon­gevity, social media and materialistic values, he says. Plus, he adds, there has been “a change from a manufacturing business culture, which emphasized production output, to a business culture that has become more interpersonally oriented, thus making one’s success dependent on what others do and you cannot control others.”

Businessballs.com, an ethical learning and development resource proposes to employers to provide stress-free work environment, recognise where stress is becoming a problem for staff and also take action to reduce stress. The site, which is run by Alan Chapman in Leicester, England says that stress in the workplace reduces productivity and also increases management pressures. Stress at work also leads to illness, affects performance of the brain including functions of work performance, memory, concentration and learning.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines a healthy job as one where pressures on employees are appropri­ate in relation to their abilities and resources, amount of control they have over their work and the support they re­ceive from people who matter to them. The global health body says a healthy working environment is one in which staff have made health and health promotion a priority and part of their working lives. On the other hand, WHO ex­plains that work related stress is the response people may have when presented with work demands and pressures that do not their knowledge and abilities. This, eventually challenge their ability to cope.

KEY ISSUES:

  • The effect of work place stress in an Organisation
  • World Health Organisation’s take on a healthy job and what triggers stress at work
  • Symptoms and solutions to work related stress

Interestingly, WHO notes that there is often confusion between pressure or challenge. This can sometimes be used to excuse bad management practice. “Pressure at the work place 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 availa­ble resources and personal characteristics.” According to WHO however, when the pressure becomes excessive or unable to manage it leads to stress, which can damage an employees’ health and business performance.

At the backdrop of all these challenges, employers face the arduous task of retaining talent. In efforts to improve employee recruitment and retention and to enhance pro­ductivity, organizations have implemented policies and practices such as flexi time, telework in order to tackle employees work-life concerns. However, there is mixed evidence regarding their effectiveness. A study under the title, “empowering individuals to integrate work and life: insights for management development” provides a unique and valuable insight for those interested in supporting employee work-life development, leadership and perfor­mance in all spheres of life. The study which was exploring the experience of 316 participants in the Total Leadership program found that the participants had reported high lev­els of satisfaction in all domains of life such as work, com­munity, home and self.

In order to manage stress, the following tips can be ap­plied from time to time

Track your stressors. This can be done by keeping a jour­nal for one or two weeks in order to identify situations that trigger most stress and how you respond to them;

  • Develop healthy responses
  • Establish boundaries
  • Take time to recharge
  • Learn to relax
  • Talk to your supervisor
  • Get some support.

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