Archive for March 2012

3 Ways to Minimize Work-Related Stress Before It Overwhelms

March 12, 2012

Guest Post by Dario Priolo on Mon, Mar 12, 2012

Many people, regardless of their role or level in the hierarchy, experience stress from work. The combination of quickly approaching deadlines, crashed hard drives, and too much coffee may seem like day-to-day annoyances, but they each contribute to a person’s stress level. Some people work well under pressure, while others may fold like a cheap suit when the going gets tough. A manager’s ability to help employees to minimize work-related stress can have a significant impact on productivity and effectiveness.

Regardless of one’s ability to cope with stress, each person has a limit, and each workplace can take steps to ensure that no employee has to endure stressful extremes.

Typical examples of work-related stressors include lack of control, deadline pressure, poor work relationships, excessive travel, lack of communication, work overload, understaffing, organizational change, and job stability.

While some may consider these to be the norm, they may actually cause severe physical and psychological issues among employees. In fact, stress is linked to some of the leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide.

The workplace is teeming with stressors that have the potential to seriously harm employees if they are not managed properly. To successfully promote employee health and safety, businesses should assess and manage work-related risks that could lead to unhealthy levels of stress. All parties within an organization should be aware of the need to address potential health-related issues in the workplace, including the company, supervisors, and individual employees.

Each party plays a different role in assessing and addressing health-related issues, and, if done correctly, their efforts will result in a healthy workforce.

1. Tackling stress at the company level

The company is accountable for taking reasonably practical actions to reduce hazards and risks and to ensure that work activity does not adversely impact the health of employees. In recent years, many progressive companies have taken steps to promote and improve work-life balance throughout their workforce. Depending on the size of the company these actions may include anything from allowing flexible work hours to providing a daycare service for employee’s children. As reported on MSNBC, Maryland-based WeddingWire allows their staff to take unlimited time off – as long as the work gets done.

Companies should consider the top stressors of their employees, and then adapt policies to counteract those stressors. Some companies may not be able to provide ample vacation time for their employees, but they could create policies that allow for comp time or break periods throughout the day so that employees feel like they have the freedom to step away from work to deal with personal matters or simply recharge. Each company should take the time to minimize stressors that are within their control in order to ensure that quality and productivity remain an employee’s priority.

2. Supervisors can minimize employees’ stress levels

Supervisors also play a major role when identifying and relieving work-related stress as they are responsible for assisting employees in maintaining a healthful work environment. This may include looking at how work is organized, being vigilant regarding employee vulnerabilities, and finding ways to relieve pressure so that stress does not become excessive.

It is also important to continually review how others are impacted by changes in team dynamics. In order to address problems accurately, supervisors should learn the basic signs of a stressed employee, and what resources are available to assist employees with stress-related issues.

3. Employees should take personal ownership of managing stress

Although it is tempting to blame the company or the job description, employees are also responsible for their stress-related issues. It is the responsibility of the individual to notify their supervisors of any issues related to their perceived stress or stress they observe in others.

This requires open communication between the employee and the supervisor which is typically dependent on a strong relationship based on honesty and trust. Individuals should also familiarize themselves with available resources and support such as Human Resources and the Occupational Health Department.

Stress should not be taken lightly. Too much of it can lead to an increase in the likelihood or severity of a number of physical and psychological illnesses, increased absenteeism and an increase in the frequency of accidents, reduced morale, increased staff turnover, and reduced productivity.

Professionals at every level should work together to remedy any stressors that are potentially harmful to employees. Work may be demanding, but the health of individuals does not have to suffer as a result.

Jeffrey Meyers contributed to this article.