For most of us, work is worship. We work with dedication and constantly strive to achieve more. However, achieving targets, managing deadlines or balancing a huge workload can be challenging to cope with. At times, job stress can have positive impact by increasing one’s productivity; however, greater levels of stress can be harmful. Thus, identifying stressors at the workplace becomes crucial for individual well-being.
Stress has been related to several mental health issues such as anxiety, insomnia, and depression; as well as physical ailments like coronary heart disease (APA). To protect oneself from the risk associated with chronic stress, one needs to identify and manage stress effectively. Commonly cited workplace stressors or causes of “job strain” are low salaries, lack of opportunities, high or unrealisatic workload, unrealistic job expectations, long working hours and unfavorable weather (“Heat stress”). (American Psychological Association (APA) and Harris Interactive, 2011; Dash & Kellstrom, 2011).
Some major workplace challenges are as follows (APA):
- Meeting deadlines and achieving targets : Time has run out, and you find yourself closer to a deadline set by you or your colleagues and superiors. Different people experience stress differently, and meeting a deadline or achieving a target can be quite stressful. Thus, understanding your limits is important.
- Working Conditions: Environmental conditions such as insufficient lighting, foul smells, excessive heat, or disruptive background noises can contribute to an unhealthy workspace. Thus, the work environment itself can become a stressor if the workplace conditions are not conducive for the employee.
- Role ambiguity: When a person is unclear about his task or role at workplace, it can be stressful for that person. She/he may find themselves in a crisis and may not be able to identify their purpose or contribution to the organization. This confusion can be stressful.
- Long Working Hours: When an individual works for longer hours at workplace due to work demands, it can result in tiredness and fatigue, which can lead to stress.
- Unreasonable Workload: Being assigned more or less than you can manage can be stressful. For example, being overloaded with work can make an individual work without breaks, which can be stressful for the body and mind. On the other hand, having no work to do can lead to listlessness, boredom and a lack of motivation.
- Relationship with Supervisors and Colleagues: In a work environment, one is often required to interact with supervisors and coworkers. This could be for information, suggestions and help in certain matters. Facing issues with colleagues or supervisors can be stressful due to the high frequency of these interactions in a usual work environment.
Stress is a normal response when we face demands that exceed our capacities in various areas of our life. However, identifying stress which is harmful becomes very important. The following questions can be asked to oneself so as to identify stress at workplace: (StressStop)
- Are you able to handle your job?
- Do you feel like you have control over your job?
- Are you satisfied with yourself and the work that you are doing?
- Are you finding your job stressful?
- Do you believe you have the necessary coping skills to handle this stress?
Once you have identified stress, you may want to take a few steps to manage it in a healthy way. Some of the steps which can be followed for managing stress at the workplace are discussed below.
- Reconsider your goals
Our ambitions can blind us, as we put all our efforts into achieving them. We often do not pause to reflect after achieving one goal, but instead strive to achieve more. We may become work-obsessed and chase targets, and not realizing the stress it causes us.
It is important to remember to relax and recharge yourself before beginning a new assignment or chasing a new target. Maintaining a space between your goals or targets and your personal life can help to increase your peace of mind and productivity. Furthermore, it may help to set honest, realistic goals, rather than stressing yourself out on unrealistic ones.
- Plan a short vacation
Sincerity towards your work is important, but it is important to take time off for yourself. Once in a while, everybody deserves a break. Taking a break from work would not imply a decrease in sincerity towards your organization. Instead, it is healthy to let go of your work-related worries and try to enjoy a much-deserved break. It is recommended to take frequent breaks from work, rather than working continuously for a period of time and then taking one long vacation. This can keep burnout at bay, and offer frequent reprieves to counter work stress.
- Take a break from technology
The constant need be updated with day to day life on social networking sites, even when on vacation, takes away from time devoted to relaxation and recharge. Disconnect by switching off your mobile phone, or at least by spending less time on your gadgets.
- Maintaining Work-Life Balance
In our personal lives, we often face situations that are not under our control. Dealing with these circumstances can be very stressful. Our interactions with our families and loved ones may not always be pleasant, and we may carry these worries to our workplace and vice versa. As a result, work and personal worries conflate to become overwhelming for individuals. Thus, it is important to draw boundaries between one’s home and work. This can be ensured by taking easy, small steps, such as not taking work calls when one is at home, limiting phone calls from home while at work, leaving one’s workplace on time and ending one’s work day with rituals that signify closure (e.g., listing all the tasks completed).
- Regular Exercise
The positive effects of exercise on mood and fitness are well recognized. Studies have indicated that mental and physical health can be hugely benefitted from daily exercise (McCann & Holmes, 1984; Williams & Getty, 1986; Folkins, 1976). In the long run, exercise benefits your mood and energy levels, and can help you detach from work along with refreshing, strengthening and revitalizing your system.
Meditation helps one to focus and to be present in the moment. Moreover, it is a widely accepted relaxation technique used for anxiety and stress. Regular meditation can help you to clear your mind, reduce frustration and anxiety, calm your mind and re-center yourself.
How can iCALL help?
At iCALL, we provide a supportive and caring environment in the form of telephone, email and chat-based professional counseling services. If you are facing problems due to workplace stress, our telephone-based service can be of help in providing immediate support during times of vulnerability. If you’d prefer to reflect, and think over your concerns with the support of a professional, our email or chat-based services can be of help. The trained and qualified team of counselors at iCALL is here to support you in any way that you feel comfortable. Reach out to us between Monday to Saturday 8 AM to 10 PM. A phone call or email may be just what you need as the first step towards a healthier mind.
APA Help Center, American Psychological Association (n.d.) “Coping With Stress at Work.” Retrieved from: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/work-stress.aspx [Last accessed February 20, 2018].
American Psychological Association, Harris Interactive (March 2011). “Stress in the workplace.” Retrieved from: https:/www.apa.org/news/press/rpdfeleases/phwa-survey-summary. [Last accessed on 20 February, 2018.]
Dash, S. K., & Kjellstrom, T. (2011). Workplace heat stress in the context of rising temperature in India. Current Science, 496-503.
Folkins, C. H., & Sime, W. E. (1981). Physical fitness training and mental health. American psychologist, 36(4), 373.
McCann, I. L., & Holmes, D. S. (1984). Influence of aerobic exercise on depression. Journal of personality and social psychology, 46(5), 1142.
Psychology Help Center, American Psychological Association (n.d.) “How stress affects your health.” Retrieved from: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress.aspx [Last accessed February 20, 2018].
StressStop, (n.d.). “Stress At Work.” Retrieved from: http://www.stressstop.com/stress-tips/articles/stress-at-work.php. [Last accessed 17 Mar, 2018].
Williams, J. M., & Getty, D. (1986). Effect of levels of exercise on psychological mood states, physical fitness, and plasma beta-endorphin. Perceptual and motor skills, 63(3), 1099-1105.