Causes of Job Stress and How to Reduce It
Job stress is a major cause of stress for many people. Here the causes of workplace stress are discussed and the strategies that you can use to reduce stress at work.
Do you feel like you are buffeted by the effects of work stress - with no safe haven to turn to. Don't worry, there are things that you can do to reduce your job stress.
You are under the pump - a deadline is fast approaching and your boss is yelling about wanting yesterday's report.
Suddenly you feel overwhelmed. You can feel your heart beat rising and your breathing speed up - as you recognize familiar territory - you're stressed out!
Job stress is a major health and safety issue!
While some jobs such as air traffic controllers or hospital and emergency services can be inherently stressful, there are very few workplaces that are immune from the effects of stress.
Work stress can result in greater tension, low morale, reduced immune function and hypertension.
In short, workplace stress can affect the quality of your work and your health!
Causes of job stress
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) job stress model suggests that job stress is a mixture of stressful job conditions mixed in with individual and situational factors.
Individual factors include the ability to adopt a positive mental attitude, optimism and a positive outlook in the face of stress.
Situational factors may include having a supportive home and/or work environment, or having adequate work life balance.
In the research conducted by NIOSH, the primary factor that influences workplace stress are stressful job conditions.
Primary causes of job stress
In the NIOSH model, stressful job conditions include the design of tasks, management styles, interpersonal relationships, work roles, career concerns and environmental concerns.
The Design of Tasks. This refers to the activities done in performing the job. Some tasks that can be particularly stressful are critical decisions (e.g. emergency medical staff or police officers), excessive complexity and many alternative options (e.g. nursing and patient care) , boredom and/or repetitiveness (e.g. factory line workers) and excessive time urgency accompanied by unrealistic expectations.
Management Style. Do you feel you have control over your work? Do you feel you have a say on how things run, or feel that you are being asked to do something in conflict with your job function? A lack of participation in decision making by workers, poor communication and poor family-friendly policies can increase job stress.
Interpersonal Relationships. A lack of supportive relationships with supervisors and co-workers can increase job stress This may play out in power struggles between workers and management, discrimination or sexual harassment in the workplace.
Work Roles. Conflicting or uncertain job expectation, having too much responsibility (or not enough) and having too many "hats to wear".
Career Concerns. A lack of opportunity for growth or advancement can increase job stress. Changes in the workplace and job insecurtiy are also career concerns that can increase overall work stress.
Environmental Conditions. Dangerous and unwelcome environments can place pressure on workers and increase work stress. For example, some work may be exposed to noisy or polluted environments that may increase work related stress.
Knowing what is causing your work stress can help you to put into place stress management strategies to deal with work stress.
What can be done to reduce work stress?
Stress in the workplace reduces the health well-being of workers and costs organizations billions of dollars each year in lost productivity and increased absenteeism.
A study conducted by a Life Insurance Company found that 70% of workers thought that job stress resulted in poorer health habits and reduced productivity.
The personal and business costs of work stress make getting on top of stress vitally important.
What companies can do to reduce workplace stress
Relaxation techniques and stress balls can only go so far in relieving work stress.
Companies need to get involved in managing stress at its source – indeed evidence tends to suggest that organization interventions tend to be more effective than individual interventions.
Organizations play a role by promoting health and programs that reduce work stress.
By doing a stress audit, the company can find out what areas of work are stressful – is it excessive workload, non-consultative management styles, role conflict or too high expectations.
By identifying the cause of stress – the company can then introduce policies that reduce or eliminate stressful work conditions.
What can individuals do to reduce job stress
However, there is likely to be resistance to organization intervention – and while priority should be given to such an intervention there are plenty of things that an individual can do to manage their work stress.
While a certain amount of stress can be motivating, too much stress can lead to difficulty concentrating, frustration, and poor decision making and a number of stress-related illnesses.
If you are experiencing job burnout then it is important to say no to additional responsibilities and examine your time management. These strategies can help you with job burnout.
Strategies that individual can employ to reduce their work stress revolve around avoiding the cause of stress or changing the way that you react to stress.
Reduce stress through prioritizing and planning. One source of stress at work is feeling as though you haven’t got enough time to do the tasks that you need to do. If you have a to-do list as long as your arm and feel that you are constantly putting out fires, then prioritizing and effective time management at work may be an important avenue to reduce workplace stress.
Reduce stress by breaking bad thinking habits. It can sometimes be easy to get into a negative frame of mind – in fact when confronted with unrelenting stress a negative outlook can feel like the norm. One important way that you can reduce the impact of stress on yourself is to flip your negative thinking and develop positive thinking habits. Recognizing that stress is about how you view the situation, you can increase your abilities to cope with stress by changing the way that you view certain situations.
Recognize what causes you stress. Download a stress diary and keep a stress log today. By understanding what pushes your buttons and how you react to work stress you can develop strategies to prepare for events that cause you stress at work.
Practice relaxation strategies. Develop a repertoire of relaxation techniques that you can use at work. I have taught diaphragmatic breathing exercises to clients who have then used them in periods of high workplace stress. They have reported that these breathing techniques can help to short circuit the stress response.
Find support. Discuss work concerns. With counselor or trusted friend/family member who can listen and give good advice.
Related Articles on Work Stress
Job Burnout: Is Stress a Cause of Job Burnout?
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