Arresting Workplace Stressors
The stress that prevails in contemporary societies is seemingly now more perennial than in the past. The medical experts and others have described stress as the silent killer. It is said to be a contributing factor to non-communicable diseases, such as hypertension or high blood pressure, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Stress can also result in psychological disorder. It is possible that the prevalence of these illnesses or disorders may be overlooked inasmuch as they may not impact a significant number of employees at any given time.
Workplace stress can be considered not as something that an employee brings to the job, but rather a derivative of the job. The Health and Safety Executive, an organization based in the United States of America, described workplace stress as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them at work.” Further, the point was made that“stress is not an illness – it is a state. However, if stress becomes too excessive and prolonged, mental and physical illness may develop.”
Whereas stress may not be defined as an illness, it has the potential to do enough damage that it can be fatal. There is the reality that many employees exit the workforce at an early age, having been declared medically unfit. Others are forced to leave, resign from their jobs, or seek alternate work because of the demands of the job, poor working conditions, unclear and shifting policies by management and pressures brought on by the absence of job security.
In addition to the aforementioned, there are some other major stressors. The lack of workplace communication and the non-engagement of employees in decision making, discrimination, bullying in all forms, sexual harassment and organizational changes, all have the potential to be create a fear factor.
As it relates specifically to discriminatory and intimidatory behaviour, bullying in all forms, sexual harassment, these can be non-physical acts of terror on the individual which can trigger the symptoms of stress. With reference to a study conducted in the United States, Monica Patrick wrote “The potential for violence in the workplace brings on the stress for workers. A recent study by the United States Department of Justice says that over 500,000 people experienced nonfatal violence in 2009. Although this number has dropped dramatically since 1993, where it was over 2 million, this phenomenon causes high levels of stress in some job fields.”
Why should this information be of importance to employers and management? It should be relevant to those who are conscious of the need to maintain a healthy and productive workforce for their business enterprises to grow and develop. Those who choose to ignore it and do nothing about it, are missing the fact that they are contributing towards low productivity, unhealthy workplace relationships, costly employee turnovers, absenteeism and increased health care costs. Added to this, there is the likely increase in operational costs, driven by constant recruitment and job training.
Workers should be ever mindful that workplace stress knows no age or demographic group. Since all workers are susceptible to workplace stress they must be aware it is a highly personalized phenomenon, for which they must develop coping skills.
The American Institute of Stress summarized the global magnitude of workplace stress by referencing the 1992 United Nations report which labelled job stress “the 20th Century disease”. A few years later, the World Health Organization said it had become a “worldwide epidemic.”
A 1998 study reported that rapid changes in the workforce had resulted in not only a staggering unemployment rate of 10 per cent in the European Union but higher rates of job stress complaints. Japan had a similar problem as a result of a major and prolonged recession. A subsequent European Commission survey found that:
· more than half of the 147 million workers in the European Union complained of having to work at a very high speed and under tight deadlines;
· approximately half reported having monotonous or short, repetitive tasks and no opportunity to rotate tasks.”
DENNIS DE PEIZA Labour Management Consultant Regional Management Services Inc.
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