Workplace Stress

Job stress is a serious health hazard. It’s not as obvious a problem as, for example, heavy lifting or exposure to toxic chemicals, but job stress often takes its toll on workers in the form of frequent headaches, loss of appetite, depression, irritability, back and stomach problems, high blood pressure and heart attacks. “Stress can also increase the risk of being injured on the job and can lead to marital, drug, and alcohol problems,” explains M. W., M.D., medical director of OccNet. OccNet is the occupational health service of the Health Alliance.

It’s a big problem: the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health reports that psychological disorders, many of which result from stress, are among the 10 leading causes of work-related disease. The U.S. Office of Technology Assessment predicts that stress-related illness may become the greatest public health problem faced by office workers.

Stress on the job is often caused by poor working conditions, including the following:

  • Physical and environmental conditions–unsafe or unsanitary working conditions, lack of privacy, improper lighting and poor temperature control.
  • Psychological factors–harassment, inadequate job skills, role conflicts, conflict with other workers and lack of adequate breaks.
  • Organizational policies and procedures–schedules, deadlines, unreasonable workloads and inadequate pay and benefits.
  • Socio-cultural factors–lack of support from co-workers, authoritarian management styles, lack of job security and lack of control over one’s job or career.

Stress management techniques such as muscle relaxation treat the symptoms of workplace stress, but “it’s also important to address the underlying causes,” emphasizes Dr. W. Here are some of the things employers can do:

  • Conduct a survey of workers to define the stress-causing aspects of various jobs.
  • Address and correct the causes, such as by increasing staff, reducing overtime, providing more rest time, reducing the frequency of shift rotations, improving the physical environment and working conditions.
  • Use employee assistance programs to help workers deal with stress, whether at home or at work.
  • Conduct stress reduction workshops, which will teach techniques that can reduce symptoms while the causes of the stress are being addressed. Physical exercise, relaxation exercises and making more time for families and personal pursuits are important methods of stress reduction.

Healthy Living Article List

For WomenFor SeniorsFighting CancerYour HeartEmergency 101
Work Smart Bones, Muscles and JointsNutrition NewsAdvice From Our Docs