Historically, work-related stress was perceived to be a problem only in jobs with high pressure and low pay, such as teaching and social services. Today, this is no longer the case; work-related stress has become a factor in most every type of job, including fast food, retail sales, law enforcement, and healthcare just to name a few.
Nowadays, we spend more time at work than any other single place outside of the home. Therefore, it would make sense that the content of our work, our work environment, and the people with whom we work, combined in various ways, can add a significant amount of stress to our lives.
Many of us have become so accustomed to being in a permanent “fast-forward” mode; we do not even realize how much stress we have or the effect it has on us. Apart from physical problems, work-related stress can lead to poor job performance, job dissatisfaction, accidents on the job, job loss, problems at home and violence.
Many different situations can contribute to work related stress.
One example is a situation or person at work with whom you have no control. Some individuals have coworkers who are difficult to get along with. These individuals fail to realize that they have no control over the personalities of a colleague or a supervisor.
Technology overload: We are all linked to email, voice mail, faxes, pagers, and cell phones in some way, which make us all too accessible. Information comes too fast and some cannot keep up.
Doing more with less: For instance, downsizing, layoffs and changes in the business environment require many employees to do more or reduce access to needed resources, adding pressure to their lives.
Changes at the workplace: This problem has been proven to be a major factor in work-related stress. Change is scary, especially at work. Situations that are new and/or unclear can create intense anxiety at any level. Even positive experiences (such as a promotion) at work can be stressful.
Trying to live up to expectations: Often we have unrealistic expectations of others and ourselves. We want to set goals that help us and others succeed, however setting them too high only sets us up for failure.
It is important to understand that although you may not be able to eliminate all work-related stress, you can manage it better at work. Here are some practical things you can do to lower your stress level:
- Make to-do lists and use them: Evaluate your tasks and rank them in order of importance. Lists help you rely less on your memory and guide you throughout your day.
- Set times to check your email/voice mail: Doing so will help you gain control of these demands. Put it on your to-do list in the morning, before or after lunch and before you leave work for the day.
- Learn to delegate responsibility: When stress at work is on the rise, many of us go into overdrive. You do not have to do everything yourself.
- Get support: Mostly likely if you are feeling the stress at work, others are too. Ask coworkers about how they are handling the stress. If you need help, ask for it.
- Crisis or conflict: Many times at work, conflicts are perceived as crises. This can be problematic for all involved. Take a moment to evaluate the situation at hand, see if it requires immediate attention. Try not to overreact or manage others' anxiety.
- Give yourself time to answer: When a colleague or supervisor at work asks something of us, our first instinct is to answer immediately. This can be troublesome down the road as we end up overextended and resentful. Take a moment to think before you answer. When possible say, “I’ll get back to you in an hour.” This will give you some time to think it through and avoid off-the-cuff decisions.
- Communicate: Be as specific and as direct as possible. This will minimize mis-communications and prevent potential problem situations.
- Don’t forget talking to your boss about your perceptions of the work environment that cause stress. Good bosses can help clarify potential mis-perceptions on your part that are contributing to your stress and are instrumental in helping you address problematic issues.