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Work Related Stress ... what can we do?

Work Related Stress…

The health and safety executive’s (HSE) formal definition of work-related stress is:

"The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them at work."

According to them half a million people in the United Kingdom feel that stress due to occupational pressures has a detrimental effect on their health. Up to five million people have stated that they feel extremely stressed by their work.

The world health authority (WHO) states the areas of work that cause stress can be broken into two sections; work content and context. The conditions that fall under content can be that, the job is monotonous and under stimulating, there may be too much or too little to do in the time allocated. Strict or inflexible working hours, which can be long and unsociable or just badly designed shifts. A lack of participation in decision-making, lack of control in the speed expected, the amount of hours or the processes and methods used to carry out the job.

The factors that fall under context are; career development, the role in the organisation, interpersonal relationships, the organizational culture and the person’s work life balance.

I am sure that most of you reading this can relate to at least one of the issues listed above. Stress is not exclusive and can affect anyone, no matter their position. It also affects all sectors in industry. Work related stress happens when a person is unable to cope with the demands being put on them or in some cases not being put on them.

When reading the reports and the way some of the definitions are worded I can understand why people don’t speak up about how the are feeling. When under normal circumstances the individual has coped exceptionally well in the past and has a high level of skill and knowledge in that particular field.

Another definition: “Coping – means balancing the demands of the job (the job requirements) with your skills and knowledge (your capabilities)” … Is this a hard pill to swallow?

Work related stress does not happen over night. Research shows that when pressure at work is increased people thrive on it and therefore so does work efficiency and performance … until it reaches tipping point. If the work pressure goes on for a longer period of time or goes over tipping point then that is when burnout or stress occurs and work performance suffers. When the pressure continues it has an effect on people’s ability to function and they can become ill.

I know that work related stress is a tricky subject a bit like ‘yuppie flu’ was in the eighties. With work related stress, no one case is the same – everybody deals with situations differently and that is the key. Some people have the ability to leave their work at work, others are akin to the way Daniel Day Louis approaches a new character and immerse themselves in the job forsaking all else. Some would say that is what gives them their passion and thirst for knowledge. A strong work ethic it was called in the past. In this era of Multi media and superfast optic fibre Wi-Fi. Is it now time for the ethics of the past to be reconsidered to stay at the top of the pile?... Yes, work hard. Yes, feed your passion. But it is important that you realise you are not a computer, you are not designed to work 24 hours a day seven days a week. Your physical, mental and spiritual selves need to DEFRAG … post Dos - visit the genius bar. An old friend and colleague used to say “fresh eyes, put it away and look at it again in the morning”. It is important to check yourself and realise when it is defrag time. We work better and harder with a good work/life balance. It is also important to communicate this to whoever, your colleague, manager, and HR. department, usually in that order, whoever is unwittingly piling on the pressure.

The secret is to have the confidence in your ability to do the job under normal circumstances even with a bit of extra pressure.

Your employers/managers need you as much as you need them, they maybe just have maybe forgotten that it is much easier to keep the person with passion, knowledge and a thorough understanding of what needs doing and doing well and dare I say it with a good bit of loyalty thrown in.

Yes the new whizz is always a breath of fresh air but they are probably feeling they have a lot to live up to and they have to make sure they are seen to be up to the job.

Are we too busy watching our backs? To work as a team and get the task completed? Looking at the other side of the coin the people above, are also under a great deal of pressure they are just disseminating it down.

In large work spaces when there is something of importance in the offing sit back and observe for a minute or two, you can see the energy changing, fear and panic is infectious like the flu. Even the people who are not involved in the task start to become affected.

Is it ego that encourages the martyr within us to become overloaded?

Having the courage to say “ I am working to capacity right now please give it to someone who can prioritise it.”

The manager is not thinking about your workload in most cases they are prioritising ability. Have the confidence to communicate assertively at work. Be heard in a positive manner even if it is not what they want to hear. Teamwork and brain storming where egos are left at the door is important for interpersonal relationships, support and a healthy organisational culture.

Before your stress levels reach implosion point, take stock … look at all areas of your life. Where are you too thinly spread? What action needs to be taken to get back on track and take a breath?

When talking to friends and listening to there everyday challenges whether it is covering their monthly outgoings, coping on their own, balancing a demanding career with family commitments, especially at this time of year the phrase is often banded about; “ it’s just for now until the pressure eases” … but does it ever? Make a chart and mark your progress, don’t use it to add pressure, use it to release the pressure. What good things need to happen? What changes are you willing to make?

Be Cool Be Calm Be in Control, most of all come from a positive place.

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