Managing Stress in the Workplace

Stress is a normal part of life, affecting people either positively or negatively. It can be caused by events or situations that happen to us or by our own thoughts, attitudes or expectations. Whilst it can be short-lived and positive, like watching the deciding set of a Wimbledon tennis final, it can alternatively be chronic and/or severe.

Research indicates that issues in the workplace are a major causative factor in the development of stress, irrespective of industry, occupation or pay level. Models that measure and predict the operation of stressors within the workplace have focussed on the interaction between demand and control. It has been found that the combination of high demands in a job and low amount of control over the situation (meeting these demands) can lead to high strain or stress.

It is important to remember that no one is immune to stress, and that not all stress is unhealthy. Classically, stress can be categorised into four areas:

  1. Eustress: or “healthy” stress; characterised by an individual facing a positive challenge that may generate feelings of nervousness or excitement. This form of stress can often lead to improved motivation and performance, helping an individual “rise to a challenge” and meet their goals.
  2. Acute stress: a brief period of stress related to a specific situation
  3. Episodic acute stress: numerous episodes of acute problems or major life events that compound in their effects resulting in difficult recovery
  4. Chronic stress: ongoing pressures of demands that go on for a long time with little hope of improving. Chronic stress can be very damaging to health and relationships.

It is incredibly important that businesses not only identify, but also address stress in their workplace. Stress can impact on a business in many ways, including:

  • Reduced productivity or “presenteeism” – cost to Australian business of $25.7 billion annually
  • Reduced employee engagement – increased staff turnover, absenteeism, petty internal politics, reduced efficiency
  • Increased psychological Workers Compensation claims - psychological-based time-lost claims cost organisations almost 3 times more per claim than physical injuries, resulting in increased Workers Compensation premiums and claim costs.

Well-designed, organised and managed businesses actively address stress and the health of their employees by implementing and managing a range of management strategies designed to maximise the health and well-being of their employees, ultimately leading to high performance.

A multi-layered organisational approach to managing stress in the workplace may include:

  • Analysis of the demands placed on an individual, ensuring clearly articulated role descriptions, reporting and communication lines, achievable and reasonable workloads, and environments conducive to social and emotional health and wellbeing
  • Ensuring a healthy locus of control exists for the employee, support is available or readily accessible, professional development is encouraged, resources available and a culture of collegiality is engendered
  • Modelling of healthy professional relationships, mission statements and values and clear effective strategies to deal with unacceptable behaviour.
  • A change management strategy that enables employees to take ownership for the change process, are aware of timeframes, short and long term direction of the company and encourages employee participation in a meaningful and tangible way.

Appropriately guiding an individual to seek the assistance of a Registered Psychologist privately or through your workplace’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) (if available) can help them implement effective interventions and guide a business towards a positive outcome to avoid future problems.

To find out more about how stress may be impacting on your workplace and how you can help manage this, please contact us.

To find out about Artius' Employee Assistance Program which can be tailored to organisations of any size and industry click here.