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Workplace Stress is No Joke!

Employers need to understand the ways workplace stress and chronic stress affects their staff.  Employees need to speak up, know their rights (workplace law) and their limits.

How many employees truly know and follow their job descriptions?  Probably not as many as you might think.  But job descriptions are often “out the window” when there is work to be done and not enough people to do it all.  Workplace stress takes on many forms.  Stress management techniques can help, but with no end in sight, staff may feel it is a never ending battle.

When peole are in positions in which they are overloaded, overworked and stressed to the max, there is only so long the body and health will tolerate it.  Workplace stress has been steadily increasing, right in line with the decline of job security and our economy.  Over the years employers have been trying to save money by heaping the work of two people onto one, it is backfiring with a vengeance as health care costs have risen dramatically across so many industries.

Often employees believe they are in a “no win” situation, in which they feel totally trapped.    Employees live in fear of losing their incomes in these economic times, and as a result, they tolerate far more than they would otherwise, including being in the proverbial “between a rock and a hard place.”  This is an addition and different form of workplace stress.  Here are just two examples:

  1. Have tried all the appropriate channels and methods for resolving your situation, to no avail (or the appropriate channels are not made available).
  2. A boss is intimidating, disrespectful or demeaning, but the last person who reported it was subtly “squeezed out” and eventually had to quit.  No investigation was made.

When you add this workplace stress – the feeling of being trapped to the work overload and stressful “daily grind,” it is a recipe for disaster, and usually for the individual employee first, but the affect it has on productivity, corporate culture and profitability is huge!

Let’s take a look at the affects of chronic stress on health, happiness and productivity.

Chronic stress – makes life appear dismal, instead of colorful and exciting.

Chronic stress – keeps one too exhausted to take on great opportunities or to take initiative.

Chronic stress – makes one cope by developing bad habits (smoking, nail biting, overeating, over drinking, and procrastinating) and self-care in the form of mental/emotional health is balancing on the “head of a needle.”

Chronic stress – strains relationships, career performance, finances and ultimately health.  Increased sick days, lateness and taking time off becomes more and more needed.

Stress is a real killer and should be taken very seriously by all employers, and by each individual.   If the stress is one of work overload, the ability of human beings to adapt can be startling, but don’t be fooled.  There is a price.  Here are three things to consider by both employee and employer:

  1. If the stress is a passing issue – i.e., “for a season” not an “eternity” the consequences may not be as severe to health, happiness and productivity.  Find a “light at the end of the tunnel,” and create proverbial “rest and regeneration” perks along the way.
  2. If stress management and time management is taught and support and assistance is provided to help your people implement these techniques to counteract the daily intensity of stress, the body has recuperative powers, and people are more likely to be happy and productive.
  3. If the stress requires legal help read the by the American Bar Association. It’s important to know your rights as an employee or employer.

Although learning to manage a stressful job is important, there are responsibilities on both sides – employers and employees.  Human Resources is usually the place most employees turn to.  Meanwhile, employers would do well to consider this issue when doing strategic planning.  Your staff is your “life blood” and they hold the future of your Company in their hands.

The American Psychiatric Association will be at the Philadelphia Convention Center on May 6-8, featuring the Presidential Symposium: Mindfulness in Treatment of Stress and Psychiatric Illness: Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, Peter Beiling, PhD, John Denninger, PhD and Sara Lazar, PhD.  For travel arrangements we’re here to help get you safely to and from the Piladelphia airport.


Workplace Stress is No Joke!

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