Work-related stress is an issue that is often ignored. After all, some stress at work is almost unavoidable. It can be difficult to determine the difference between average and too much stress. When does an employer take action? And is the scale of the problem really significant?
The first serious problem most employers encounter is to identify work related stress and investigate its level and influence. Sometimes, the problem is that a manager at work is completely unaware of the excessive stress levels of the employees. Managers or executives may also feel a great deal of stress and be incapable of identifying the signs in their employees. At the same time most employees rarely speak up trying to hide all the symptoms afraid of losing their job. In fact, a survey revealed that half of all employees in the UK feel stress is common or very common in the workplace. Reasons are varied of course but 80% of employees pointed to job reorganisation or job insecurity; same number mentioned workload and hours worked while 63% said they were subject to unacceptable behaviours such as bullying or harassment.
Lack of awareness leads to a dangerous, high-stress environment that will cause problems for the workers as well as the organisation’s operations in general. An overly stressed work environment will result in a wide range of negative responses. In fact, excessive stress will lead to almost 50% more sick days, according to recent studies. Another startling fact is that employees that are highly stressed are twice as likely to be unproductive or distracted at work than employees who have average stress. Executives that are overly stressed will pass their frustration and irritation down the ranks. This could be disastrous in some environments especially if we take a look at symptoms of an employee suffering from excessive stress or the employee who is burnt out:
- More frequent tardiness, with or without good excuses
- Inability to maintain focus or concentrate on the job at hand
- Difficulty getting along with fellow co-workers
- Insubordination or regular problems with supervisors
These few signs of an over-stressed employee can have serious negative effects on the entire team and has a ripple effect throughout the entire organisation. Not surprising, the highly-stressed employee is likely to be a full-time employee. These tend to be the most valuable people in the organisation. When your most valuable employees are suffering, the organisation will too.
But what exactly makes these stressed people less productive? Stress is a fact of life and it may seem a little odd that as a manager or executive, you have to do something about it. Think of it like this; when stress levels are too much, it becomes a serious issue at work and in the personal life of the employees. Employees may not tell their managers about issues in their personal lives, but if they are suffering from stress, you can expect they are likely experiencing one or all of the following symptoms that will definitely influence their work performance:
- Muscle tension; aching shoulders and back aches
- High blood pressure, which can lead to serious heart problems
- Constant anxiety,
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Apathy, not enjoying life or depression
When a person suffers from such issues, they are likely to turn to self-medicating or prescription medications. This is in fact a huge problem in the UK where prescriptions for sleeping pills has dramatically increased since the beginning of the economic downturn. The Guardian called it “Britain’s hidden addiction” while the Daily Mail shouted “Britain has become a nation of sleeping pill addicts“ Insomnia has become a serious problem and prolonged stress would be one of the main reasons.
So is there a way out?
What can be done to manage the stress once a problem has been identified?
Fortunately, the resolution is actually much simpler than many executives and managers may realise. As they say, recognising and identifying the problem is the first step in solving an issue. The solution can be accomplished with four simple steps. Those steps can be summarised as follows;
- Identify the issue. Know the symptoms of a high-stressed employee and prepare to act.
- Determine how serious the situation is and how quickly you need to respond and what kind of response is warranted.
- Take action to resolve the stressful situation.
- Keep a close eye on the situation and be prepared to take action if the situation arises again.
Advice? Don’t ignore this potential hazard any longer. Take action to help resolve the problems posing a threat to your organisation due to employees feeling more stress than they can handle.
We’ve just published an infographic with detailed statistics on the problem. Click on the image below to access it.