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On-the-Job Stress – Take Control!

Excessive Stress on the jobHow often have your heard a colleague at work groan about the inherent stress of the workplace? Perhaps you hear complaints about how unsupportive the supervisor or the manager is when dealing with the daily workload? Maybe YOU are the one complaining? Or just maybe, YOU are the manager or supervisor who others are complaining about!

Job stress is not a bad thing…unless, of course, you have too much of it for a long period of time. Having some stress is actually good because it releases hormones that can speed up your heart, allow you to breathe faster, and give you a burst of needed energy. As with most everything else in life, stress can be manageable as long as it is in moderation.

Michael Ford, an assistant professor of psychology at Albany State University of New York, recently presented at a conference in Los Angeles about how uncontrolled stress on the job can impact the physical and mental well-being of employees and their families. Though very concerning, organizations can heed this ‘wake-up call’ and avoid an excessive stress-related environment by changing internal practices to reflect a positive culture.

A few key items revealed at this conference (many are quite intuitive, I might add) include:

  • High levels of job stress and work-life stress may result in mental health problems, such as increased levels of depressive symptoms and negative health outcomes. Cardiovascular disease has been a clear link, along with obesity and general physical health complaints from survey participants.
  • Heightened job stress can reduce positive health behaviors, such as healthy eating, exercise, having appropriate sleep, etc.
  • Relationships at home suffer, such as marriage quality and critical time spent with children.

Ford found that people in supportive work environments tend to be more supportive of their spouses and family life. But the one big takeaway from his findings? Managers and supervisors are a primary source of work support – or work stress. (hint-hint!)

According to WebMD, job stress is typically caused by:

  • Lack of control over work or job duties – this can be the biggest cause of stress.
  • Increased responsibilities – too much work to do and saying “No” is not an option.
  • Job satisfaction and performance – not having a meaningful job can be quite stressful.
  • Uncertainty about work roles – Lack of job duty direction.
  • Poor Communication – Not being allowed to talk about needs, concerns and frustrations.
  • Lack of support – If you’re not receiving support from your boss or co-workers, it’s difficult to solve stress-related problems.
  • Poor working conditions – Working in dangerous work areas that are unpleasant.

The above job-related stress issues remind me of our 2007 Iowa Employment Values Study, as posted in our March 2013 blog, “What Iowa Employees Value Most – Lessons to be Learned?” Employees highly value a workplace environment with a family-supportive culture that attempts to control job-related stress. This should make a great deal of sense to any employer, and frankly, it can be implemented in any organization quite easily.

What culture does your organization reflect?

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