The importance of being challenged in our work lives is probably what people are referring to when they say “a little bit of stress is good for you.” However, when we face overwhelming demands that can’t be met, that “good-for-you” challenge transforms into stress and frustration – and eventually illness or injury. When you neglect to take steps to combat work-related stress, you are risking both job success and your mental and physical health.
Common Sources of Stress
Common job stressors include heavy workloads, pressure to perform, long work hours, travel, office politics and conflicts with coworker(s). Of course, these stressors are compounded by the realities of everyday demands: commutes, family issues, health problems and other factors can add to the stress of the workplace. Our ways of living and communicating are constantly changing, and adapting to these changes are never stress-free.
Know the Signs of Stress
Look out for early symptoms of stress and take steps to relieve them quickly. If you let them go unchecked, these symptoms can develop into more serious health complications such as heart problems, depression and anxiety. Be wary of the following stress symptoms:
- Short temper
- Upset stomach
- Sore back
- Job dissatisfaction
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased errors
Tips to Managing Stress
The good news is that is possible to manage stress that originates in the workplace or life in general by becoming aware of what increases or decreases your level of stress.
- Plan and Prioritize: Set realistic deadlines. Creating pressure will only increase the probability that you’ll make a mistake. Always have an alternate plan in mind. Give yourself time to think projects through instead of rushing through them.
- Focus on what you can control: Create a “to-do” list to prioritize your work. Break larger tasks into smaller more doable steps. Begin with the most pressing tasks and then move on to less important projects.
- Slow Down: Think things through before you act, and begin with a clear goal in mind. In this way, you’ll prevent having to start over halfway through a misguided project.
- Think outside the box: When you’re feeling overwhelmed or overworked, search for alternative ways to get the job done. By doing so, you could save time and money, and put your projects into fresh perspective.
- Use all your resources: Learn to effectively delegate work that you cannot handle. If you can not finish a project internally, explore outsourcing options.
- Take a break: To relieve stress, make time to take a break. Taking a walk or discussing your work situations with another person may help you to gain a fresh perspective.
Strategies for Employers
- Establish an employee recognition plan for rewarding good work performance.
- Provide opportunities for career development.
- Promote an organizational culture that values the individual worker.
- Ensure management actions are consistent with organizational values.
- Provide stress management training and an Employee Assistance Program.
- Look for ways to improve working conditions.
- Provide a means for employees to comfortably and confidentially communicate about stresses related to job responsibilities.