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Stress is a biological response to challenge or demand that comes with any kind of change. Body or mind, either or both can react to a vast array of stimuli. We experience emotional or physical stress almost every day in our lives. Some have little effect while a few instances may have life-altering consequences.

“Workplace stress is the harmful physical and emotional responses that can happen when there is a conflict between job demands on the employee and the amount of control an employee has over meeting these demands.” – Canadian Medical Association

1. Causes of tension at one’s place of employment

Causes of work pressure may be one or many. An individual’s reaction to work environment or situations may even depend on personal factors. Studies have reflected on certain factors commonly known to have a stressful impact in workplaces on people.

Several factors related to tasks accelerates workplace pressures. Some such factors are as below:
• Workload (too much or too little)
• Speed, variation, a sense of purpose
• Time management for tasks, shifts/work hours
• Ability to take task / job-specific decisions
• Skills vs job demands
• Training and preparation
• Communication
• Appreciation (lack of or adequate)
• Isolation (emotional or based on work structure)

Unclear roles and uncertain career path and responsibilities in the organization exacerbates workplace stress:

• Conflict regarding responsibilities
• Hierarchy (multiple supervisors)
• Ambiguity in expectations and responsibilities
• Level of responsibility
• Promotion expectations (under/over-promotion)
• Job insecurities (economy or task-based)
• Lack of growth opportunity
• Overall job satisfaction

Interpersonal issues in office also disturbs workplace balance

• Conflict with or lack of support from supervisors, co-workers
• Violence or harassment threats
• Dealing with unacceptable behaviour
• Prejudice/discrimination
• Trust issues

Work environment can strongly influence one’s stress levels in an organization.
• Decision-making process and participation in it
• Communication flow and pattern
• Performance recognition
• Reporting and management of concerns
• Employees not engaged well enough during any organizational change
• Perceived fairness in employee treatment can directly influence / magnify perceived stress level of an employee
• Support issues e.g. insurance/health policies benefiting family, employee assistance programs

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance isn’t easy.
• Conflict in responsibilities can rise to unnecessary confusion, and, may in turn, add to stress
• Regularly working under unpleasant conditions like physically uncomfortable work space or emotionally distressing environment due to mistreatment by colleagues or real / perceived unfairness, can reduce productivity and take a toll on an employee’s mental health
• Work-related hazard for factory/industry workers or labourers can expose one’s family’s exposure to direct health risks or indirectly to financial burden

2. Tension can affect employee and employer both

Anybody associated closely with the stress factor can react emotionally or physically, be it the employers or the employees.

3. Stress at work: The good, the bad, and the ugly

As explained earlier, stress is a natural biological response to change or any threat of change, real or perceived. We react to situations we face. Sometimes, our reactions help us positively handle our life issues. Positive stress can help us “rise to a challenge” and achieve our goals. Examples can be meeting deadlines, finding new clients, managing something difficult. This kind of “good stress” helps us meet or exceed expectations at work and home. Our body’s response to immediate stress increases oxygen levels and motivates us to get through adverse situations. However not everybody can take stress in the same way and stress can be negative too. Avoiding stress can cause more significant harm in the long run by worsening the situation or by also adding pressure to those around.

4. Symptoms of stress

Physical symptoms of a high level of stress can be increased sleep disturbance sweating, headaches, palpitations, muscular tension, fatigue, etc. while some can fall ill or experience decline in health as a long-term effect of stress. Emotional signs may be lack of concentration, problem in decision-making process, suffering from low confidence, forgetfulness, mood swings. Behavioural signs can be low motivation, procrastination, less productivity, irritability, defensiveness, hypersensitivity and anger.

5. Long-term effect of high work pressure

Prolonged experience in job related stress is more challenging to deal with as the stimulus is more constant than short term ones. Our bodies can’t receive a clear signal to return to regular functioning. As a result, stress may disturb our immunity, digestion, sleep and reproductive systems. Continuous strain on our body or mind can contribute to serious health issues like heart, BP, diabetic disorders, and obesity. Reaching out to seek professional help with severe mental health problems like anxiety, depression, loss of interest in work, insomnia, and such other effects of stress on time can be of great benefit to us in terms of cost and quality of life.

6. Strategies that employers can adapt to handle stress in the organization

• Employers can reduce stress factors like noise, repetitive strain, and improve ergonomics (helps with those experiencing aches and pains due to seating/standing for long hours). • Job roles and responsibilities need to be designed with reasonable variety, and demand must not be set on sheer endurance. One must have some learning and growth opportunity in the organization with a support and recognition system. • Privacy and confidentiality must be ensured when an employee raises harassment / safety / discrimination concerns. • The employer needs to evaluate stress factors and employee stress levels from time to time. Practising positive mental health promotion and policies in the Workplace helps too. • Clear expectations, support for skill training, balanced workload, manageable deadlines and work hours can make a huge difference. • Preventing and / or taking action against bullying and harassment, looking out for stress signs, counselling and stress management training can help, but rooting out the stress factors are necessary too. • Having a mental health support system like psychologist/ counsellor available for employees at least once a week/month either onsite or online site in which the employees can reach out whenever required and also consistently do short term/long term therapy with , to start of with, can bring out positive changes in terms of all of the above to both individual employees and the Organization as a whole as well.

7. Employees can boost productivity and improve work-life balance by cutting down tension

Do you feel stressed? Know your signs and try to understand what you are going through. Reach out to your superior for your concerns, communicate clearly. There’s no shame or harm in seeking professional help. Ask your employers if it’s in your company policy to provide mental health support. A psychologist is often attached to organizations to assist employees dealing with stress and other emotional factors.

You can reach out to the psychologists in RxDx anytime

Maintain good social and personal health in terms of body and mind. If you recognize or feel any stressors for yourself or your co-worker, reach out. You are helping yourself and others to have a better work-life balance. Set up a happy and healthy work environment for yourself by taking some of the steps listed below: 1. Take and offer honest and constructive feedback in a positive manner. 2. Set realistic goals 3. Reach out, communicate, don’t think you are alone. Talking about your issues are always better than setting them aside to deal with them later 4. Spend time with family and friends 5. Limit extra work hours. Don’t overburden yourself 6. Support and accept support 7. Plan finances well 8. Laugh more 9. Exercise, relax, pick up a fun hobby 10. Talk to a psychologist for any level of stress you may feel. Getting professional help on time saves you many woes concerning body and mind later

8. Ask for professional help

A trained psychologist can identify stress factors, signs and symptoms, and help employer / employee understand where and how to improve on any of the above to reduce the stress level. Quality of work, productivity, success in achieving career goals, all these can be achieved and then some, through professional counselling and psychotherapy.

Call RxDx for personal/ corporate psychological counselling/therapy

Ms Trisha Ray, RxDx, Consultant Psychologist and Special Educator, is highly skilled and experienced in psychological consultation, assessment, psychotherapy, and corporate counselling (expert in workplace stress management).

 

Ms Ray has a Masters in Clinical Psychology, B. Ed (Special Education), Certification in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), USA, and is registered with the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI).

Inputs from Ms Trisha Ray, Consultant Psychologist, RxDx Healthcare
Compiled by Ms Anindita Choudhury, Content Writer, RxDx Healthcare