Stress in the Workplace

Aug 6, 2015 | FYI's

Article written by:  Jenine Mentoor | Junior Accountant | MD Accountants & Auditors Inc.

Many people are faced with the question, ‘Am I too stressed at work?’  This is brought on by the feeling of being inadequate.  Fear not fellow employees, the cavalry has arrived, below are some examples of what may be the main cause of workplace stress, how to identify it and tips on how to manage your stress levels.

Your emotions are contagious, and stress has an impact on the quality of your interactions with others.  The better you are at managing your own stress, the more you’ll positively affect those around you, and the less other people’s stress will negatively affect you.

Tip 1:  Recognise warning signs of excessive stress at work

When you feel overwhelmed at work, you lose confidence and may become irritable or withdrawn.  This can make you less productive, less effective in your job and make the work seem less rewarding.  If you ignore the warning signs of work stress, they can lead to bigger problems.  Beyond interfering with job performance and satisfaction, chronic or intense stress can also lead to physical and emotional health problems.

Signs and symptoms of excessive job and workplace stress:

  • Feeling anxious, irritable or depressed
  • Apathy, loss of interest in work
  • Problems sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Muscle tension or headaches
  • Stomach problems
  • Social withdrawal
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Using alcohol or drugs to cope

Common causes of excessive workplace stress:

  • Fear of being laid off
  • More overtime due to staff cutbacks
  • Pressure to perform to meet rising expectations but with no increase in job satisfaction
  • Pressure to work at optimum levels – all the time!

Tip 2:  Reduce job stress by taking care of yourself

  • Get moving – regular exercising is a powerful stress reliever
  • Talk to an attentive listener – the other person does not have to fix your problems, he / she must just be a good listener
  • Make food choices that keep you going – by eating small but frequent meals , you can help your body maintain an even level of blood sugar, keep your energy up, stay focused and avoid mood swings
  • Drink alcohol in moderation and avoid nicotine – alcohol temporarily reduced anxiety and worry, but too much can cause anxiety as it wears off.  Similarly, smoking when you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed may seem calming, but nicotine is a powerful stimulant , leading to higher, not lower, levels of anxiety
  • Get enough sleep

Tip 3: Reduce job stress by prioritising and organising

  • Create a balanced schedule – all work and no play is a recipe for burnout
  • Don’t over-commit yourself – all too often, we underestimate how long things will take
  • Try to leave earlier in the morning – even 10 to 15 minutes can make the difference between frantically rushing to your desk and having time to ease into your day
  • Plan regular breaks – make sure to take short breaks throughout the day to take a walk or sit back and clear your mind.  Also try to get away from your desk or work station for lunch.

Tip 4:  Reduce job stress by breaking habits

  • Resist perfectionism – when you set unrealistic goals for yourself or try to do too much, you’re setting yourself up to fall short.  Aim to do your best, no one can ask for more than that.
  • Clear up your act – plan your day and stick to the schedule – you’ll feel less overwhelmed
  • Flip your negative thinking – if you can see the downside of every situation and interaction, you’ll find yourself drained of energy and motivation.  Pat yourself on the bank about small accomplishments, even if no one else does.
  • Don’t try to control the uncontrollable – many things at work are beyond our control – particularly the behaviour of people.

Tip 5:  Learn how managers or employers can reduce job stress

It’s in a manager’s best interest to keep stress levels in the workplace to a minimum.  Managers can act as positive role models, especially in times of high stress.  If a respected manager can remain calm in stressful work situations, it is much easier for his or her employees to also remain calm.

Additionally, there are a number of organisational changes that managers and employers can make to reduce workplace stress.  These include:

Improve communication

One of the best ways to improve communication is by learning to listen attentively to an employee.  That means not just understanding the words for the information being communicated, but also understanding the emotions the speaker is trying to communicate.  When you’re engaged with what’s being said, you’ll hear the subtle intonations in someone’s voice that tell you how that person is really feeling.  You’ll also make that person feel heard.  By communicating in this way, you’ll also experience a process that lowers stress for both you and your employee.  If the person you’re talking to is agitated, you can help calm them by listening in an attentive way and making the person feel understood.

  • Share information with employees to reduce uncertainty about their jobs and futures.
  • Clearly define employees’ roles and responsibilities.
  • Make communication friendly and efficient, not mean-spirited or petty.

Consult your employees

  • Give workers opportunities to participate in decisions that affect their jobs.
  • Consult employees about scheduling and work rules.
  • Be sure the workload is suitable to employees’ abilities and resources; avoid unrealistic deadlines.
  • Show that individual workers are valued.
  • Offer rewards and incentives.
  • Praise good work performance, both verbally and officially, through schemes such as Employee of the Month.
  • Provide opportunities for career development.
  • Promote an “entrepreneurial” work climate that gives employees more control over their work.

Stress in the workplace can be alleviated. Just take control of the situation and believe in your own abilities, believing in your abilities helps others believe in you.

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