Dealing with stress in the workplace
Since the causes of workplace stress vary greatly, so do the strategies to reduce or prevent it.
Where stress in the workplace is caused, for example, by a physical agent, it is best to control it at its source. If the workplace is too loud, control measures to deal with the noise should be implemented where ever possible. If you are experiencing pain from repetitive strain, workstations can be re-designed to reduce repetitive and strenuous movements. More detailed information and suggestions are located in the many other documents in OSH Answers (such as noise, ergonomics, or violence in the workplace, etc.) or by asking the Inquiries Service.
Job design is also an important factor. Good job design accommodates an employee’s mental and physical abilities.
Is there anything I can do to help myself deal with the stress I am experiencing at work?
In many cases, the origin of the stress is something that cannot be changed immediately. Therefore, finding ways to help maintain good mental health is essential. There are many ways to be proactive in dealing with stress.
In the workplace, you might try some of the following:
- Learn to relax, take several deep breaths throughout the day, or have regular stretch breaks. Stretching is simple enough to do anywhere and only takes a few seconds.
- Take charge by taking 10 minutes at the beginning of each day to prioritize and organize your day.
- Be honest with your colleagues, but be constructive and make practical suggestions.
- Be realistic about what you can change.
In general, the following job design guidelines will help minimize or control workplace stress:
- the job should be reasonably demanding (but not based on “sheer endurance”) and provide the employee with at least a minimum of variety in job tasks
- the employee should be able to learn on the job and be allowed to continue to learn as their career progresses
- the job should comprise some area of decision-making that the individual can call his or her own.
- there should be some degree of social support and recognition in the workplace
- the employee should feel that the job leads to some sort of desirable future
What can the employer do to help?
Employers should assess the workplace for the risk of stress. Look for pressures at work which could cause high and long lasting levels of stress, and who may be harmed by these pressures. Determine what can be done to prevent the pressures from becoming negative stressors.Employers can address stress in many ways:
- Treat all employees in a fair and respectful manner.
- Take stress seriously and be understanding to staff under too much pressure.
- Be aware of the signs and symptoms that a person may be having trouble coping with stress.
- Involve employees in decision-making and allow for their input directly or through committees, etc.
- Encourage managers to have an understanding attitude and to be proactive by looking for signs of stress among their staff.
- Provide workplace health and wellness programs that target the true source of the stress. The source of stress at work can be from any number of causes – safety, ergonomics, job demands, etc. Survey the employees and ask them for help identifying the actual cause.
- Incorporate stress prevention or positive mental health promotion in policies or your corporate mission statement.
- Make sure staff have the training, skills and resources they need.
- Design jobs to allow for a balanced workload. Allow employees to have control over the tasks they do as much as possible.
- Value and recognize individuals’ results and skills.
- Provide support. Be clear about job expectations.
- Keep job demands reasonable by providing manageable deadlines, hours of work, and clear duties as well as work that is interesting and varied.
- Provide access to Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) for those who wish to attend.
- Do not tolerate bullying or harassment in any form.
- Do not ignore signs that employees are under pressure or feeling stressed.
- Do not forget that elements of the workplace itself can be a cause of stress. Stress management training and counselling services can be helpful to individuals, but do not forget to look for the root cause of the stress and to address them as quickly as possible.