Stress naturally occurs in the workplace. But when left unchecked, it can become detrimental to one’s health and productivity. In fact, a recent study by the British Heart Foundation found that two in every five employees say that stress at work has affected their health, by causing them to smoke and drink more, eat poorly, and forego exercise. Stress has been associated with physical problems like a weakened immune system, stomach aches, high blood pressure, hair loss, and headaches. Their mental health can also be affected as excess stress can cause racing thoughts, feelings of losing control or feeling or anger, depression, and sleep issues.
All though managers can’t completely relieve stress from every employee, there are certain factors to understand that can help put into perspective what causes stress and how to lessen its effect in the workplace.
- Employee lack of control
How much authority employees have, lack of influence or consultation in the way in which work is organized can all be potential sources of pressure for employees. To balance this, make sure workers have involvement in decision making or give them allowance to make suggestions in relation to their role. If possible, employees should be encouraged to develop new skills to help them undertake new and challenging pieces of work.
Lack of time is also a huge factor in inducing stress so monitoring how much time you are allotting per project can make a big difference. Also, consult with your employees about when breaks should be taken and their work patterns.
- Role Ambiguity
Work-related stress can be caused when an employee does not understand their role fully. Reasons for this could be they have not been given adequate training to carry out their role or if their role has conflicting responsibilities. Role ambiguity and conflict decreases workers’ performance and could be a reason for employee turnover.
Roles should be clearly defined and information should be made available to employees on this. If you do not have them already, systems should be put in place to enable employees to raise concerns about any uncertainties or conflicts they have in their role and responsibilities. Open communication is key here.
- Work-Life Balance
Although this involves employee personal lives, employers should also be aware of their worker’s work and life balance. This is the biggest and most pressing challenge to the mental health of the general population. Long hours are a contributing factor to this unbalance and it’s something that employers can control. Excessive travel time and unsocial working hours can also contribute to stress that affects home life. Keep in mind and respect that each employee has a life outside of work that is just as important as their work life. They need to be able to balance both or their overall physical and mental health will suffer for it.
Interested in more reading? Check out our post on “How to Define the Work-Life Balance”.