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Managing stress in the workplace

Every working person has been here. Not enough time in the day for all of the tasks, duties and personal responsibilities. From time-to-time a high workload is ok, moderate amounts of stress can be manageable and at times even beneficial for short-term performance (e.g. studying for a test), but high-levels of stress over time can interfere with an individual’s capacity to think clearly and impact on their ability to make decisions. When exceedingly high work demands and subsequent stress-levels have become the status-quo, something is eventually going to give. Unfortunately, often that is the wellbeing of the employee, their physical and mental health (e.g. anxiety and other mood-related issues), which may also impact on the employees family.

Stress effects everyone differently

Stress impacts people in different ways, including physical, psychological and behavioural. The more commonly associated symptoms of being “stressed” include an elevated heart rate, psychomotor agitation (feeling restless), and sleep difficulties. Other less familiar symptoms of stress are gastrointestinal problems, and immune deficiency disorders, with immune health being impacted by internal physiological processes and psychosocial factors. While further research is required, a recent study on immune system function found that psychosocial interventions, such as cognitive behaviour therapy or mindfulness, may assist in improving immune-related health.

What are main causes of workplace stress?

There are four main areas related to employment at both an individual and organisational level that may lead to a stress-response in employees. Firstly, role specific factors (e.g. such as workload, hours, unrealistic expectations and hours, safety-related issues, and other working conditions). Secondly, an individuals’ role suitability (e.g. time-management, ability to manage competing demands, role confusion, uncertainty about role or company future, career development, relationship with manager or team). Next, organisation level issues (e.g. company structure, economic climate & company, lack of employee consultation or support). Finally, external factors (e.g. commute time, personal issues such as homelife, and additional life , demands such has caring for loved ones or relational strain).

Top tips for managing workplace stress:

1. Collaboration: While there are responsibilities from both the employer and employee in being aware of workplace stress, the best results are found when there is a genuine collaboration between both parties. When staff have safe and open communication with colleagues and management, they are better able to notice and express early signs of stress and get assistance.

2. Help seeking behaviours where staff are confident and able to seek support from others in their work places can help employees to feel more confident.

3. Practising assertive communication and problem-solving skills development: Integral to assisting employees in their role include problem-solving communication strategies for communication management as an important buffer to the impact of work-related stress.

4. Lifestyle behaviours: relaxation techniques, physical exercise, meditation, and dietary changes.


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