Stress in the workplace is one of the most common causes of all types of health problems in our society. Millions of dollars are lost in revenue due to stress-related sickness absence. So what causes stress in the workplace and what can you do if you are suffering from it?
Identifying the causes of stress in the workplace is the first step. Make a list of all of the things that cause you stress at work and identify which are the most stressful for you. This might not be what other people would expect. For example, we generally think of work pressures as being imposed from above, but it is possible that a difficult relationship with a subordinate could be causing you more stress than your boss.
Then consider ways to reduce that stress, starting with the most stressful thing first. That may sound counterintuitive but the longer you put something off, the more stressful it becomes.
There are three main categories of stress at work:
1. Stress caused by overwork
Stress that is caused by pressure of work can be minimized by good time management. This may sound like a clich but it does work. Divide up your day into sessions where you can concentrate on different things. Split tasks up into steps and schedule the different steps.
Tackle the important, difficult or unpleasant tasks early in the day, when your energy and ability to concentrate are at their peak. This will also stop them hanging over you all day, adding to your stress.
Take one task at a time and really give it your attention, knowing that your other tasks are not neglected but will be covered effectively when their turn comes.
If you have a lot of deadlines, take a little time to think about how you handle them. The stress of having a deadline tends to improve our performance so it is not necessarily a great idea to try to do everything ahead of time. You may just end up spending more time on it without achieving such a good result. However, there probably are some other tasks that you could schedule earlier to free up time around the deadline.
2. Stress caused by other people
Stress in the workplace that is caused by relationships can be handled in a number of ways. First, you may need to let go of a desire to control the person or your relationship with them. Everybody doesn't have to love you. You can still work effectively with somebody even if neither they nor you have any wish to become best friends.
Second, assertiveness training can help, especially if you are feeling bullied or manipulated, or if you have a tendency to lose your temper and be aggressive to others. Assertiveness will teach you to be clear about what you want and negotiate your way to getting more of it without resorting to aggression.
3. Stress caused by the environment
Environmental factors can have a major effect on stress in the workplace and often, we are not aware of them. Once identified, it is usually possible to fix them or protect ourselves from them. Check this list and consider which of them may apply to you:
- a workplace that is unsafe, noisy, smelly or dirty
- unreliable equipment
- long hours spent in the same physical position, especially at a computer or driving
- excessive heat or cold.
Anxiety about job security can also be a major contributor to stress, although it is more of a life issue than a workplace issue. If you are suffering from this, the best thing that you can do is to improve your confidence in your work performance by working smarter, not harder. This can be achieved by combining all of the techniques that we have mentioned to reduce stress in the workplace.