The Devastating and Wide-ranging Impact of Stress in the Modern Workplace
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The Devastating and Wide-ranging Impact of Stress in the Modern Workplace

Recent studies have comprehensively demonstrated that on-the-job stress is a widespread, pernicious, pervading and costly problem in today's workplace. Most employers readily acknowledge that the incidence of the scourge has escalated exponentially just 10-15 years, and now represents the major source of stress in their lives.

Recent studies have comprehensively demonstrated that on-the-job stress is a widespread, pernicious, pervading and costly problem in today's workplace. Most employers readily acknowledge that the incidence of the scourge has escalated exponentially just 10-15 years, and now represents the major source of stress in their lives.

Staff Turnover

The immediate consequences of stress are manifold, but what should loud alarm bells for employers is that stress has now been identified as the major, and often primary, cause of staff turnover in organizations.

The Financial and other Costs of Stress

  • Stress costs to a company has calculated to be some $1500 per employee per year.
  • Stress related costs for a company employing just 100 people are estimated at $600 per day.
  • A company employing 1000 people incurs stress costs of $1 500 000 per year.
  • An average worker loses some 550 days of work over their career
  • Whatever other approach a company may try, and however much is spent on high-level technology and equipment, NOTHING can match an improvement in efficiency and profitability more than simply taking care of the employees.
  • Reducing the workers' exposure to stress, and learning how to get them to perform at their best is an investment in company-wide success.
  • A company's most important and often forgotten assets are the very people that are employed by it, and not the tangible assets.

The Impact of Workplace Stress on Health

There is no doubt that problems at work are more strongly linked to a wider range of health issues than ANY other source of stress, including personal financial and family related problems .

The Health Problems

  • Where a job is psychologically demanding, there is a higher than normal risk of cardiovascular (heart related) disease.
  • Back and upper body muscular, and skeletal problems
  • An excessive, and costly use of health care facilities
  • Periods of disability are much longer for stress-related issues than even occupational injury and illnesses.

Physiological Reactions to Stress

  • Blood flow is re-directed to the brain and large muscles
  • The brain kicks into overdrive, therefore overuse and becomes overtaxed.
  • The immune and digestive systems are temporarily shut down

Causes of Workplace Stress

The bottom line for the source of some stress is quite simply, the interaction of the worker and the conditions at work. What complicates the issue though, is that the response to stress is directly related to an individual's personality and inherent coping skills. This fact underlines the necessity for the custom design of prevention strategies that really focus on the workers, and the ways required to help them cope with demanding job conditions. Although the importance of individual differences cannot be ignored, scientific evidence has conclusively shown that certain working conditions are stressful to most people.

The Emancipation of Women in the Workplace

Women in WorkplacePeople worldwide have moved toward working very long hours, and this has escalated over the past 30 years, especially for women, in relation to past norms. What is disturbing, is that there has been a considerable increase in working hours for couples, especially those with young children. The impact on family life and the stress on children is yet to to be measured.

The Nature of Stress

In Pre-historic times, in order to survive, humankind was faced with two main sources of stress. The first was related to obtaining their major source of food, and that meant having to hunt for, and kill wild animals. The second was continuously being involved in bloody tribal battles. When dealing with both of these, to be effective, and survive, they only had 2 choices:

  • Stand up and fight
  • Run away as swiftly as their legs allowed.

FightThe choice, fight or flight, was simple, so it became ingrained into the human psyche – called the “autonomic” system. Over many millennia, sadly for humankind, nothing seems to have changed! Modern man, when confronted with a stressful situation still reverts to the inbuilt, inherited autonomic response: “Fight of Flight”. That often explains the modern incidence of primitive behavior reflected in “Road Rage” and workplace violence against the boss or a fellow worker – both of which should be totally unsuitable today.

The Outward Signs of Workplace Stress.

The problems are manifold, some of which have been clearly identified:

  • Headaches, shortness of breath and visual problems
  • Indigestion and poor eating habits
  • Mood swings, with the tendency to irritability and an overreaction to even simple issues.
  • Poor sleep patterns, and a sense of constantly feeling exhausted
  • Deep seated health problems (only becoming evident over longer and continuous periods of exposure to stress.)

The Prevention of Stress in the Workplace

Studies have shown that a combination of:

  • Well-planned organizational change
  • Stress Management Techniques

are the most effective approaches for PREVENTING workplace stress.

The approaches which have worked in practice:

  • Give workers the necessary forum/s for participating in decisions and actions affecting their jobs
  • Ensure that any given workload is in line with the worker's resources and capabilities.
  • Custom design jobs to afford the worker a sense of meaning, ongoing stimulation, and a variety of opportunities where real skills can be recognized and applied.
  • Delineate the responsibilities and roles in each job classification
  • Embark on a communication strategy that is all-embracing, allowing all workers to participate in the decisions, and actions impacting on their current jobs, and then future prospects.
  • Cater for healthy social interaction between workers – such as a weekly/monthly sports day.
  • Ensure that the employment policy is in line with any affirmative action guidelines.
  • Counter, and try to eradicate workplace discrimination
  • Bring in a knowledgeable, objective, and experienced outside consultant to look at any existing problems with fresh eyes and new perspectives.
  • Encourage a participative leadership style by all supervisors, managers etc., to involve as many staff as possible, to resolve potential stress problems before they get out of hand.

Credits: Wikipedia Commons

Images: Stock.xchng

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Comments (6)

All of this is so true and I believe older workers were the first to notice the difference. I was approximately 1994 when I noticed that now EVERYONE in a company of any size at all now had a computer on their desk to "speed up" the work flow. As I have written elsewhere, in the world of commercial insurance, one person with a PC is now expected to perform the job duties and functions that were formerly done by 8 people. And the biggest laugh is this. When the computer system is down, people just sit with their hands folded because there's very little that can be done without it. And it's okay for the computer to be sick. But when a human is sick? Oh no, too many days of that and the human will be fired! But the computer is safe from being fired; it can remember everything humans ever tell it!

I was in the HR dept. of an organization before taking up freelance writing and know how true these are. Gr8 share.

Very useful article as always, 2thumbs up here.

Thanks for you positive comments Ron!

I used to be stressed at work but there are many ways to get over it. Writing online is one of the best things I've discovered. Nice work.

Great stats about stress. I just can't seem to write when I am stressed out.