Stress is natural in the workplace. In fact, in some cases stress can be positive because employees with a manageable amount of stress feel driven and motivated. However, when stress becomes overwhelming, it can be negative. In some cases, the impact of stress can be so overwhelming that it leads to low levels of productivity, has an adverse impact on health, and may even lead to burnout.
While modern technology has created exceptional new opportunities it has also created a new curse. In the modern age of always-online connectivity, employees are finding themselves working longer hours, often handling client concerns many hours after they’ve left the office. This leaves little time for rest and often invades personal time with friends and family. With no time provided to “switch-off” and recuperate constant work-related stress has become the new normal.
While work-related stress is a necessary evil in the world of the working professional, acceptable levels of stress in the workplace have skyrocketed in recent years, making it more difficult to manage. The result is that it takes a higher toll on the personal lives of employees.
From an employer’s point of view, the importance of addressing stress levels in the workforce stems from the fact that a highly stressed employee is much more likely to suffer from irritability, lack of focus, and possibly even depression, having a profound impact on levels of productivity and the quality of work output. There are some effective tools that both employers and employees can use to help manage the situation.
Know what is in your control
An effective way to avoid unnecessary stress is to take cognisance of individual responsibility. Worrying about things over which you have no control is a sure-fire way of increasing your stress levels. Aspects such as the financial performance of the company, the strategy and direction of the organisation, or even staff shortages are out of the control of general employees, and should be left to management level staff to handle.
- Pinpoint the origin of stress
For those aspects of stress that can be individually managed, the best way to tackle them is to narrow down exactly what is causing the stress and address it. Learn to communicate better with those around you and air your grievances – having your opinion heard can be the simplest way to minimise personal stress levels. Avoid procrastination because putting work off until later can be a major cause of stress. Before you know it, your petty workload will have doubled in size.
- Use performance reviews to improve
Don’t waste valuable time worrying about whether or not you are underperforming, as this could result in a lack of focus and poor work delivery. Instead, use your company’s employee performance reviews as a reliable way to measure what you are doing well and where you can improve. Unless you’ve actually been told that you are doing a poor job, there is no reason to let this affect your productivity. It is the responsibility of management personnel to make sure that employees are working effectively.
- Keep work for nine to five
Most importantly, work should only be done during office hours. Unless it’s a real emergency, all work should be left behind when you walk out the door. Reading work emails at home will only add to your stress levels so unless you are getting paid overtime (which is highly unlikely), keep your laptop closed at home.
To handle stress more effectively, separate the issues you have control over from those you don’t. Don’t take on more than you can handle and don’t confuse your work with that of your supervisors’. Remember the age-old adage of: work smart, not hard.
Finally, a highly effective, but often overlooked method for measuring employee stress levels is the use of Employee Satisfaction Surveys. These surveys provide a picture of your organisation’s needs. They can be used to solicit employee opinions on a variety of issues such as the company’s success in communicating its mission to employees, or local issues such as quality of the working environment. At the end of the day, the higher the level of employee engagement, the better the direct impact on company bottom-line.