Occupational Stress, the psychological stress related to someone’s job, is a growing issue across all job types and income levels. With many of us spending more than 40 hours a week working, we often put our stress level aside or try to push past it to get things done. Unfortunately, when left unmanaged, it not only affects individual employees but can negatively impact the overall productivity of the team, facility, or the company as a whole.
The American culture is always on-the-go, so much so that our busy-ness has become a badge of honor. Yet work-related stressors escalate when the demands of the job exceed an employee’s ability to manage those demands. The sources of this stress can vary, from conflict with a supervisor or other employee to feeling in over their head or assessing they have little control.
Managers once blew-off employee stress, believing that affected employees “just couldn’t hack it.” Today, however, companies realize just how costly occupational stress can be to the organization, and they want to do something about it.
When considering sources of work-related stress, it’s crucial to assume the perspective of employees. People in leadership or supervisory roles tend to be more informed about organizational health and changes than an individual performer.
One common source of stress is the fear of losing one’s job. This fear can originate due to rumors of downsizing, mergers or acquisitions, reorganization, or simply a change in management. For most employees, ambiguity and fear of the unknown can create unnecessary stress and stir up the company rumor mill.
Employees also feel stress when they are concerned about their performance or that of their team. Even when an employee’s performance is not being questioned, they can still worry they are not living up to expectations. Further, their workload could have shifted in a way that makes them overwhelmed or not able to keep up, therefore creating tension about their job and performance.
With cutbacks or even attrition in the workplace, employees may also feel the pressure to take on more work or put in additional hours. These organizational changes can put employees under extra stress and significantly reduce job satisfaction when not monitored closely. When rewards and job satisfaction are out of alignment with employee effort, psychological stress can increase, especially if the employee feels helpless to change the situation.
As supervisors, managers, and leaders, you should be on the lookout for employees who are experiencing occupational stress. Notice if an employee is shorter tempered, performs at a reduced level, is less cooperative, or becomes more isolated than usual.
Employees may also present with more physical symptoms than usual, such as headaches, fatigue, or an inability to perform typical tasks. In extreme cases, employees may start missing work or show up but not really do their job.
Any of these behaviors can place employees at higher risk for injury, either because of their own stress or as a result of another stressed worker. For this reason, as well as the well-being of the affected employee, you must address the issue.
In most cases, an open dialog can bring up what is affecting the employee. While you may not be able to solve the issue as a supervisor completely, it can help employees just to know they are in a supportive and caring environment.
If you are experiencing work-related stress, there are several steps you can take:
Normandy Insurance is tuned in to workplace challenges and understands that occupational stress can also lead to mistakes on the job. Talk to one of our representatives and learn how a positive work environment is also a safer one!