Work related stress is costly, both to individuals and to employers. In recent surveys, up to 40% of people said they have a lot of work related stress, and about ¼ of them said that work is more stressful than anything else in their lives.
Work related stress causes employee illness and absence. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average lost time from a work related stress incident is 20 days. Workman’s compensation awards for work related stress cost millions of dollars annually.
That’s just numbers and statistics. It should motivate employers to make the workplace less stressful, but what can you and I do to deal with our own work related stress?
Stressful Factors in the Workplace
The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) has identified six factors that affect work related stress:
- Work design—how tasks are done. Repetition, breaks, the type and amount of work are all part of the work design.
- Management style. Authoritative, autocratic management styles and the use of negative feedback increase work related stress.
- Interpersonal relationships at work.
- Work roles. This involves what you do, the people involved, the number of roles, and the expectations of the roles. Work design is how you do your work, while work roles are what you do.
- Career concerns. Your body interprets threats to your career as threats to your livelihood and to your life. If you feel like you are constantly threatened, your job will be very stressful.
- Environmental stress. This includes factors like noise, light, frequent interruptions and other stressors around you.
What You Can Do to Manage Work Related Stress
It is not easy to manage work related stress, because much of what goes on at work is out of your control. That’s what makes it stressful. You have to earn a living, and sometimes it feels like you have to put up with a lot of stuff to do it.
NIOSH identifies three factors that can help you manage work related stress:
- Keeping a good balance between work and your personal life.
- Having a good support system of friends and family.
- Having a relaxed, positive outlook on life.
A lot of times, we have work related stress because we don’t have control over our environment, over what we do, or whom we do it with. Lack of control is very stressful for most of us.
There are probably more things at work under your control than you realize. You can control, at least to some extent, how much you work and how you balance work with your personal life. You can control whom you spend your off-work time with. You can learn good self-care and stress management and lessen the effect of work related stress by taking control of your whole life and realizing that work is just one part of it.