What Is Stress at Work?
At any workplace, whether white collar or blue collar jobs, there tends to be pressures. Pressure can arise from an employer, colleagues and the job itself. The shocking point in the frequency of reported stress among workers in the recent times and its effects on the bottom line has made the management of stress an imperative business strategy for most companies. In some cases, work pressure can be manageable and other times it may go overboard. There is a clear discrepancy concerning pressure, which acts as a motivation factor to employees, and that, which can lead to stress. Excessive pressure negatively affects employees leading to stress. Stress at work refers to the adversarial response, which persons have to dangerous pressures or other kinds of mandate placed on them in the course of their duties (Huczynski & Buchanan 2010).
Work related stress is a big challenge in the world, with statistics indicating about 1 in 7 people reporting their work to be either very or extremely stressful. The soaring number of people reporting of work related stress is alarming. Conferring to a review carried out in 2007, nearly three quarters of American citizens admitted to experiencing work related stress in their lives (Blosi, Cook & Hunsaker 2007). The study further revealed that work remained the major source of stress in peoples’ lives. In other words, stress is not a permanent state of human beings, but merely a reaction to the worker’s inability to cope with given work conditions or environment. In several cases in different work organizations, stress impacts negatively to the workers. Work related stress being a major issue requires sufficient attention because of the adverse impacts on human beings. This paper focuses on understanding the main causes of stress at work. In addition, the paper highlights the efficient policies for decreasing the effect of pressure on individuals and organizations.
Causes of Stress at Work
Most companies seek to understand the various causes of stress in order to obtain the necessary management. The major cause of stress in almost all organizations is the mismatch which arises between work demands and the worker’s proficiency. The aspect of individual employee abilities is paramount as organizations vary in their way of operations and do the jobs. Stress at work can be an existent problem to the business as well as for its workforces. Pressure arises in a wide variety of labour situations but often becomes adverse when workers lack support from fellow employees. When an employee lacks adequate control over his or her duties, there are chances of stress. In the contemporary times, the job descriptions keep changing and this can give rise to stress in most organizations (Huczynski & Buchanan 2010). Modern organizations embrace the change in technology in various sections which may be difficult for employees to adapt. Other organizations try to keep up the market competition by introducing new machines. Such changes in businesses create an environment where existing employees may find it hard to cope hence work related stress. For those who try to catch up through going back school find it hard to balance school, work and home needs. In this circumstance, the major variables, which determine the level of stress exhibited by a worker, will be employee’s characteristics and the presented working conditions. Different schools of thought agree that individual differences will determine the cause of stress at the workplace (Wagner & Hollenbeck 2005). For instance, a working environment with excessive workload demands and conflicting expectations will cause work stress to all workers. Research carried out on the key causes of work related stress indicate that demands or workload, low control, low support, low rewards, emotional demands and effort-reward imbalance remain the major contributors (Hollway 1991).
Demands or workloads refer to an employer’s expectation in regards to the assigned duties. When employed, every worker has his or her job descriptions and requirements. The targets and guidelines set for an employee determine the expected work delivery. However, employees often become overloaded in the event they fail to cope with the amount of work. The nature of assigned tasks will also contribute to failure of accomplishing the set work targets. The design of tasks leads to work stress (Dick & Ellis 2006). For instance, infrequent rest breaks, frantic and routine tasks with little intrinsic meaning, heavy workload and many other non-beneficial work approaches may lead to stress. In most cases, such work designs rarely utilize employees’ skills and offer minimal sense of control hence lead to work stress. Jobs, which lead to daily exhaustion and even cause health problems, can lead to stress. Other times, employers give workers duties to be accomplished with insufficient time (Matthewman, Rose & Hetherington 2009). Being tied to the computer all day long, without room for flexibility, rest or self-initiative, can cause stress at work. Other demands, which contribute to work stress, include emotional demands. These comprise of work-home conflict, relocation demands, lack of community/peer understanding of work role, unrealistic client expectations, professional isolations due to institutional racism and traumatic work experience (Grint 2005).
The aspect of control is another imperative cause of work related stress. Employees, despite the work level, require some aspect of control of their duties and departments. In some instances, employees tend to feel disaffected and lack control of their duties. In the end, workers perform poorly, especially when they have no say over how and when they carry out their assigned duties. Sometimes, the systems in place fail to respond to any of individual’s concerns (Fineman, Gabriel & Sims 2010). Employees require some support in terms of constant encouragement, sponsorship and resources provision from the management and other employees. Support can be in terms of provision of adequate information from both senior and junior employees and involvement in an organization’s activities. Management style is leading cause of work stress. Each organization has its own management styles. However, these management styles vary especially on the impact they have on employee productivity. Most modern organizations have management styles, which minimize employee participation in decision-making processes (Huczynski & Buchanan 2010). The styles do not allow proper communication in a company and lead to minimal family-friendly policies. When employees cannot make any decision regarding work, then there are high chances of stress development.
The contemporary world poses job insecurity to most individuals. Companies opt to employ on contract basis rather than have permanent employees. Career concerns contribute greatly to work related stress as workers lack job security and opportunities for growth, promotion, and advancement (Dick & Ellis 2006). More so, organizations tend to experience rapid changes, which increase uncertainty.
Physical work conditions contribute to causes of stress at work. For this reason, organizations need to provide proper working conditions for each and every employee in order to maximize productivity. Improper physical working conditions such as crowding and poorly polluted areas are victims of stress. Finally, work roles, especially in huge organizations, can lead to stress. In this aspect, there are many employees with conflicting job expectations, especially from dictator employers, too many responsibilities and assignments (King & Lawley 2013). These can be confusing to a worker and may contribute hugely to unproductivity. At times, work environment presents unhealthy work relationships amongst co-workers, which may lead to stress. People spend most of the time at their workplace and need to be in harmony with fellow workers. However, lack of this relationship may lead to poor working conditions, hence development of stress. Organizations need to ensure promotion of positive working conditions in order to minimize conflict and dealing with undesirable behaviour (Buelens, Sinding & Waldstrom 2011).
Strategies for Reducing the Impact of Stress on Individuals and Organizations
Stress has major diverse impacts on organizations and employees in general. Stress influences workers’ commitment to work, performance and productivity, increases employee turnover and intention to quit work, customer satisfaction and potential lawsuit against the business. Other negative effects of stress include low work attendance, poor company image and reputation over high staff turnover, and increased costs for staff recruitment and retention. For this reason, organizations find it necessary to manage work related stress in order to avoid the impacts (King & Lawley 2013). Different strategies are in place, which help organizations to reduce the consequences of stress for individuals and an organization as an entity. The most significant stress management strategies include reactive and proactive strategies. Reactive strategies are methods, which try to identify and change those aspects of either a workplace or a worker, which are likely to bring stress. On the other hand, proactive strategies focus on the workstation itself rather than on the distinct employee and try to build a working atmosphere, which is stress-free (Robbins 2009).
Most organizations employ reactive strategies, which seek qualified job applicants in response to job openings, rather than the identifying workplace needs. For example, companies find proactive strategies as costly to an organization and most times, disruptive. More so, proactive strategies require more time to successfully implement the ideas because of their complexity. The application of individual focused strategies to manage work related stress has been successful in most organizations. Organizations employ the main reactive strategies to reduce work related stress (Fincham & Rhodes 2005). These include cognitive appraisal, relaxation guidance, education about exercise and nutrition and training in developing coping skills. Reactive strategies are popular since they benefit an individual rather than an organization. However, critics argue that equipping employees with techniques and skills relevant in stress management is not adequate as the environment is a contributor to stress at work (Bratton et al 2010). Therefore, proactive strategies should be combined with reactive strategies as an organization strives to minimize effects of work related stress. Examples of proactive approaches to stress management include implementation of fundamental changes to an organization to try reducing stress-inducing aspects of a job. The management needs to address the sources of work stress found within the culture and environment of the business (Matthewman, Rose & Hetherington 2009).
To minimize stress in workplaces, companies need to match jobs to their employees’ needs and expertise, effectively manage and reward performance and majorly inform and involve workers in change and decision-making processes. A healthy organization should also redefine and clarify the existing relations between employees and an organization. It will, in turn, allow greater communication, worker participation and recognition of the unique needs of each individual (Buelens, Sinding & Waldstrom 2011). Other presented alternatives to reduce work related stress are approaches, which aim to treat the effects of a dysfunction experienced by a specific employee. These strategies include seeking attention of psychologists, doctors and counsellors to intervene in personal cases. Cognitive-behavioural strategies are popular in stress management as they have quick and most reliable results at a minimum cost (Thompson & McHugh, 2009). More so, the strategies encourage individual participation hence leads to quick recovery. A popular example of strategy most companies employ is the Employment Assistance Program (EAP). Most employers define the program as systematic, organized and continuous provision of counselling and advice to help employees. These programs recommended by most organizations are effective as they include proactive and reactive strategies to manage stress. Finally, tertiary stress management strategies include those, which the affected employee resorts to individual rehabilitation.