Occupational stress concerns situations in which an employee experiences psychological discomfort related to unfavorable working conditions. It most often occurs when the requirements of the company and the pressure exerted by the superior are higher than their knowledge and skills. As a result of such pressure, the employee is unable to meet high expectations, which frustrates them and negatively affects their psychological well-being.
The risk of problem escalation increases when the stressed person cannot count on support and understanding from their boss and colleagues. Lack of a sense of control over the work performed also hampers stress management.
Currently, many employees report problems in this regard. As we read in the largest report on the mental well-being of employees, the first year of the coronavirus pandemic for many of them was the most stressful year in their entire working life. Subsequent world events have only increased the anxiety we feel, and this situation may continue.
How to check if stress at work applies to you and your employees?
This is what you’ll find out in the article.
Reasons for stress at work
There are many stressors that can arise in a work environment. The more of them affect an employee each day, the greater the risk of developing professional stress symptoms. We can divide these factors into eight main categories:
- The nature of the work, which includes monotonous tasks and a lack of challenges and diversity. It is also worth mentioning here the cleanliness in the workplace. Dirt, noise and too high or low temperatures have a huge impact on one’s well-being.
- Excessive workload, consisting of working under the pressure of time and performance, and too many responsibilities to be performed. Stress can also be triggered by situations where an employee has too few tasks, making them feel bored, demotivated and unnecessary.
- Working hours, i.e. inflexible working hours and the need to follow strict rules.
- Development, or more precisely its lack. Employees feel stressed when they cannot be promoted, or expand their knowledge and skills. Especially when they begin to feel that their competencies are too low in relation to the work performed or the expectations of their superiors. Then they often lose the sense of job security and stability in their professional life.
- The role in the organization and the level of the position held. Poorly defined duties and an unclear role in the organization may be a stressful situation for an employee.
- Interpersonal relations, i.e. all unpleasant situations resulting from interaction with other people in the company (irresponsible superiors, bad relations with colleagues, unpleasant atmosphere at work, mobbing).
- Organizational culture and poor communication in the company, lack of a clear organizational structure and specific goals.
- Work-life balance – if this harmony is disturbed, employees will quickly feel negative effects.
Symptoms caused by stress at work
When writing about stress and its symptoms, it is worth noting that stress itself does not always have a negative effect on us. In some cases, it can be mobilizing and even useful for workers. Most of the development activities involve the employee leaving their comfort zone, trying new tasks and testing their own abilities. Thanks to this, they can broaden their horizons and improve their results and efficiency. However, this will only happen if the employee decides to put themself in a slightly stressful situation and receives the necessary support from the company, superiors and colleagues.
Unfortunately, more often stress has a negative effect. It is a signal from the body that informs about exceeding certain limits. This is how the body warns us about an emergency. Stress then results from a feeling of discomfort which is somehow harmful to us. That is why it is worth taking a closer look at it and considering what it may result from and what we should change.
If we do not do this, and the high-intensity stress lasts longer, the effects on our health will be serious.
How to verify if we are affected by negative stress at work?
Depending on the situation and its causes and intensity, stress can manifest itself in different ways. The most common symptoms include:
- migraines, headaches and backaches,
- problems with sleeping,
- diarrhea or constipation,
- skin problems,
- losing weight,
- decrease in immunity, more frequent infections and colds.
During incidental stress, we can experience excessive sweating, also in the limbs, trembling hands, dryness and tightness in the throat and trembling voice. It is relatively harmless, and the symptoms usually disappear soon after a short contact with the stressor.
Continuous and long-term stress causes much greater problems. During chronic stress, we can experience physiological (increased blood pressure, increased heart rate), emotional (nervousness, irritation), cognitive (decreased concentration and perception, greater tendency to forget) and behavioral (aggression, impulsivity, more frequent mistakes) symptoms, and its effects last longer and can lead to serious health consequences.
What to do if you are under stress at work?
If you feel any of the above symptoms, be sure to analyze what they might result from.
If you are no longer enjoying your job, and when you get up in the morning with a tightened stomach caused by the thought of the day ahead at the office, most likely you are suffering from chronic stress. It is worth rethinking your professional future, redefining priorities and finding the main reasons for the discomfort.
Once you’ve identified the causes of your stress, it’s time to come up with a plan of action. If you want to stay healthy, changes may become necessary. Perhaps it will be worth having a meeting with your supervisor or the HR department in your company. Just reporting a problem and talking frankly can be very effective. You may be surprised by the support you get from the organization. It is also worth thinking about changing working hours and improving the overall working conditions. A longer vacation or additional training may help to improve the employee’s confidence.
More advice on how to deal with work-related stress can be found in an article that will soon appear on our blog in the “Recruitment” tab.