Stress on the job appears to be among those concerns that never quite disappears completely. One work environment survey taken in 2009 found that during 2008-09 up to 415,000 respondents suspected they are experiencing work place stress with a level that's causing them to be ill. That said, it's likely that stress might be an issue for yourself or your teams at some point. From a success perspective, the figures also suggest that stress costs businesses up to $1.1 billion a year. So let's think constructive about this adverse subject.
What exactly is stress? One good definition states that stress "…arises where work demands of numerous varieties and mixtures exceed the person's potential and capability to cope." You have to remember that this definition avoids blame. It doesn't say that the "work demands" are unfair or that the person is weak. Needless to say, both those circumstances are possible, but the essence of the definition is that there is a mismatch involving the function and the worker.
While symptoms will always be unique to the individual, the examples below may suggest a stressed condition:
* feeling unable to take decisions
* reduced concentration
* failure to relax or sit still
* issues with sleeping
* increased alcohol or caffeine intake
* chest palpitations
* over time, too little self-esteem
And so, to start with, assess yourself. Do any of those feel familiar? If so, then it's worth examining your circumstance using the following six questions:
1. Are my job habits and surroundings healthy?
2. Do I have what I need to perform the task?
3. Do I know when I'm doing a good job?
4. Do I feel my job is significant?
5. Am I recognised as being an individual?
6. Am I discovering and growing?
In the event you can't answer "yes" to any of them then that gives a hint as to where some stress might be coming from. A quality supervisor or manager will even ask themselves these questions about their teams and - where necessary - raise the subject with individuals. Most large organisations today will have HR policies about stress and work-life balance which provide a foundation for such discussion.
The most obvious dilemma is: how to handle it? Options belong to two classes: quick fixes when you (or another) are feeling stressed ‘in the moment' and longer term alternatives for recurring predicaments.
‘In the moment' - go on a brief walk (exercising changes the attention and removes you briefly from the stressful surroundings); uncover anything to have a good laugh at (release those endorphins); drink water (if your body is dehydrated it is operating below its best) or herbal tea (less caffeine, bear in mind!); or if circumstances allow, relax and take a quick nap (20 minutes' sleep can easily noticeably lessen stress levels.)
Extended term - Be self aware (learn what your personal stress indicators are then pay attention to them); look at work load with a supervisor (it may be issues of quantity or it may just need re-structuring); talk to a doctor (particularly if actual physical symptoms are encountered); learn how to say "no" assertively (it's easy to fall into the trap of taking on too much at work); and ultimately, a modification of job or role might well be indicated.
Most of us encounter workplace stress at some point in our lives and occupations. Maybe we ought to see it as a good sign, letting us know that we have to look after our selves a little better. The true secret is not to disregard it but to take notice and make a change.