The nature of work is changing at whirlwind speed. New technology, new insecurities about layoffs and downsizings, and new job demands all lead to stress in the workplace. And job stress poses a serious threat to the health of workers and, ultimately, the health of an organization. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) provides insight on job related stress and how we can alleviate the problem within an organization.
Job stress has become a common and costly problem in the American workplace, leaving few workers untouched. Recent studies report the following:
- One-fourth of employees view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives.
- Three-fourths of employees believe the worker has more on-the-job stress than a generation ago.
- Health care expenditures are nearly 50% greater for workers who report high levels of stress.
- An estimated 1 million workers are absent every day due to stress.
- This unanticipated absenteeism is estimated to cost American companies $602.00 per worker per year.
There are several kinds of job-related stressors that are actually associated with increased absenteeism, tardiness, and intentions by workers to quit their jobs—all of which have a negative effect on the bottom line.
The Design of Tasks. Heavy workload, infrequent rest breaks, long work hours and shiftwork; hectic and routine tasks that have little inherent meaning, do not utilize workers' skills, and provide little sense of control.
Management Style. Lack of participation by workers in decision-making, poor communication in the organization, lack of family-friendly policies.
Interpersonal Relationships. Poor social environment and lack of support or help from coworkers and supervisors.
Work Roles. Conflicting or uncertain job expectations, too much responsibility, too many "hats to wear."
Career Concerns. Job insecurity and lack of opportunity for growth, advancement, or promotion; rapid changes for which workers are unprepared.
Environmental Conditions. Unpleasant or dangerous physical conditions such as crowding, noise, air pollution, or ergonomic problems.
So, What Can You Do?
Recent studies of "healthy" organizations suggest that policies benefiting worker health also directly benefit the bottom line. NIOSH research has identified organizational characteristics associated with both healthy, low-stress work and high levels of productivity. These characteristics include:
- Recognition of employees for good work performance
- Opportunities for career development
- An organizational culture that values the individual worker
- Management actions that are consistent with organizational values
Start De-stressing Your Team Today!
Although it is not possible to give a universal prescription for preventing stress at work, it is possible to offer small steps you can take to alleviate stress in your organization.
Make Work Fun
Remember, employees spend an average of 40-50 hours a week at work—almost 1/2 of their waking hours! Give them a well-deserved break—you can even designate a short weekly "recess" where they are encouraged to relax, socialize and play! Hand out stress toys, provide snacks and they'll get back to their desks energized and relaxed!
Recognize Your Team
Make one day a week "Acknowledgement Day"! Hand out cards to your people and have them write a short note to someone they think has done something well that week. Write your own cards identifying something positive about everyone. After they are given out, present a special award to the outstanding performer of the week. Make this a regular event and make sure everyone is made to feel important in your organization.
Get Everyone Involved
There are a lot of decisions that are made every day in an organization—getting your team involved in some of these decisions allows them to feel part of the process. It might be as simple as having a weekly status meeting with your team where everyone has the opportunity to talk about their workload, share concerns and issues, and all be involved in the problem-solving process.