Workplace Stress: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
“The number one root of all illness, as we know, is stress.” – Marianne Williamson
Employed individuals spend approximately 47 hours a week at work, and in a lifetime that equates to over 100,000 hours! And if those hours are filled with negative stress, both employees and the business may suffer! As a business owner or executive, it is important for you to know how stress affects you and your workforce.
The annual cost to employers of stress-related health care and missed work is $300 billion!
According to the NIOSH Report study referenced on The American Institute of Stress website:
- 40% of workers reported their job was very or extremely stressful
- 25% view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives
- 75% of employees believe that workers have more on-the-job stress than they did a generation ago
According to the Attitudes in the American Workplace VII study also referenced on the website:
- 14% of workers felt like striking a coworker in the past year, but didn’t
- 25% have felt like screaming or shouting because of job stress
Not all stress at work is bad. A certain amount of stress can give you a burst of energy. It can help you to meet your daily challenges. It can motivate you to achieve your goals. It can help you accomplish tasks more efficiently. It can help boost your memory and it can improve your creativity.
However, good stress can easily become bad stress when it lasts too long or becomes too intense to be managed. Too much stress can be detrimental to your physical and mental state. It can weaken your immune system, and cause high blood pressure, fatigue, depression, and anxiety.
Identifying the causes and warning signs, and managing the bad stress is the key. There are no advantages to having stressed-out employees. Undiagnosed stress causes 60% of all illness and disease. When you consider how much it costs to hire and train employees, all companies should be concerned about employee turnover, especially when it is due to stress.
HelpGuide.org offers these tips for recognizing and coping with workplace stress. Signs and symptoms include feeling anxious, irritable, or depressed; apathy; fatigue; trouble concentrating; muscle tension; stomach problems, etc. They offer ways to reduce job stress by regular exercise, having a strong support group, eating better, drinking alcohol in moderation and avoiding nicotine, creating a balanced schedule, not over-committing, and planning regular breaks. All good suggestions.
The only problem I have is that they are too general. True, the suggestions may reduce some stress. But wouldn’t it be helpful to know the cause of the stress? We already know how much it costs employers each year due to stress-related incidents, so doesn’t it behoove all employers to help their employees to identify the causes of bad stress?
As with all other things in business, you can’t fix or manage what you don’t measure. Identifying and analyzing stressful situations is no different. You can’t reduce or eliminate stress in the workplace unless you first identify where the stress is coming from. Let’s look at some areas of potential workplace stress:
Job Demands – Challenges within the job keep employees motivated; however, stress can build as the demands of the position and the increase in responsibilities grow. At some point, the individual will feel overwhelmed.
Effort vs. Reward – Stress occurs when employees feel that the amount of effort they are putting in does not meet the rewards they are given. They become less motivated and psychologically stressed.
Lack of Individual Control – The vast majority of us don’t have complete control over the work we do, but the more powerless we feel about our day-to-day activities, the greater the amount of stress we feel.
Organizational Change – It has been said that the only one who likes change is a wet baby. Some welcome change. Others absolutely hate it, and when change is the constant and change is not communicated or handled well, the result is stress.
Manager/Supervisor – We have all had good bosses, we have all had bad bosses, and we have all had bosses who have no business being bosses. When people have managers who are not aware or don’t seem to care about the needs of their subordinates, or whose management style clashes with employee motivational needs, stress runs rampant.
Lack of Social (Peer) Support – We all need people that we can depend upon at work, people with whom we can share our frustrations. People who have your back, share your work values, and will just listen to you vent. Without that peer support, your job can be lonely and overly stressful.
Job Security – Everyone worries about job security these days. Either they worry about the lack of advancement, trust within the workgroup, or whether their job will be there in the near future. This is one of the biggest areas of stress in the current job environment.
Knowing whether your employees are experiencing stress in these areas is important for identifying ways to alleviate it. There are various stress assessments available. TTI Success Insights™ has a stress assessment tool that not only identifies individual levels of stress in all of the aforementioned areas, but also creates a team assessment combining the individual ones. In this way, the company can easily identify the significant clusters of stress affecting the majority of the employees.
When you measure something, it becomes important. If the health and well-being of your employees and the overall health of your company or organization is important to you, then measuring, identifying, analyzing, and improving areas of employee stress should also be important to you.
About the Author — Ron Feher is the Chief Improvement Officer at WhiteRock Business Solutions where he helps turn small business strategy into reality. He is a strategic partner with Prana Business (Line-of-Sight™), certified professional analyst with TTI Success Insights®, and specializes in improving all aspects of business operations including executive coaching, employee stress assessments, business planning, and day-to-day operations improvement. Ron does Career Coaching as an outreach (#givingback). WhiteRock is located in Orange County, California and can be found at www.whiterockbusiness.net; or contact Ron directly at firstname.lastname@example.org (949-466-0943). #workplacestress @RonFeher