In the past, when people thought about health in the workplace, they were mostly concerned with ‘health and safety’, for instance, minimising physical hazards. Today, traditional health issues, such as noise, dust and chemical hazards, are still vitally important. However, our growing concern with good work-life balance has also made us aware of the relationship between our jobs and our mental and physical wellbeing.
The benefits of promoting a healthy workplace are for employers as well as employees; healthy and motivated workers are more likely to ‘go that extra mile’: give good customer service, take fewer sickdays and provide commitment and creativity.
Is work really good for my health?
Yes. Studies show that work should generally be good for your health: it gives many of us self-esteem, companionship and status. Research has shown that this is strongly influenced by the amount of control we have over our working lives.
You may also find that having some control over the way you do your job encourages you to feel more committed to your employer.
What are the signs of an unhealthy workplace?
An unhealthy workplace is usually quite easy to recognise. It often has:
- poor management
- a bullying culture
- poor customer service
- high levels of absence
- reduced productivity
- unreasonably high work demands.
What makes a healthy workplace?
Healthy workplaces usually have a number of common features. These include effective policies for managing people issues (such as communication, absence, grievance and occupational health) and high levels of trust between employees and managers, for instance where workers are involved in decision-making.
Other features that you may find in a healthy workplace include:
- line managers who are confident and trained in people skills
- an organisation where you feel valued and involved in decisions
- the use of appropriate health services (e.g. occupational health where practicable) to tackle absence and help you get back to work
- managers who promote an attendance culture
- flexible and well designed jobs
- managers who identify problems at an early stage and seek to resolve them using informal methods
- managers who know how to manage common health problems such as mental health and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).
Tips to Reduce and Manage Job and Workplace Stress
While some workplace stress is normal, excessive stress can interfere with your productivity and impact your physical and emotional health. And your ability to deal with it can mean the difference between success or failure.
You can’t control everything in your work environment, but that doesn’t mean you’re powerless – even when you’re stuck in a difficult situation.
Finding ways to manage workplace stress isn’t about making huge changes or rethinking career ambitions, but rather about focusing on the one thing that’s always within your control: you.
Coping with work stress in today’s uncertain climate
For workers everywhere, the troubled economy may feel like an emotional roller coaster. “Layoffs” and “budget cuts” have become buzz words in the workplace, and the result is increased fear, uncertainty, and higher levels of stress.
Since job and workplace stress increase in times of economic crisis, it’s important to learn new and better ways of coping with the pressure.
Your emotions are contagious, and stress has an impact on the quality of your interactions with others. The better you are at managing your own stress, the more you’ll positively affect those around you, and the less other people’s stress will negatively affect you. You can learn how to manage job stress
There are a variety of steps you can take to reduce both your overall stress levels and the stress you find on the job and in the workplace. These include:
- Taking responsibility for improving your physical and emotional well-being.
- Avoiding pitfalls by identifying knee jerk habits and negative attitudes that add to the stress you experience at work.
- Learning better communication skills to ease and improve your relationships with management and coworkers.
Recognize warning signs of excessive stress at work
When you feel overwhelmed at work, you lose confidence and may become irritable or withdrawn. This can make you less productive and less effective in your job, and make the work seem less rewarding. If you ignore the warning signs of work stress, they can lead to bigger problems.
Beyond interfering with job performance and satisfaction, chronic or intense stress can also lead to physical and emotional health problems.
Signs and symptoms of excessive job and workplace stress
- Feeling anxious, irritable, or depressed
- Apathy, loss of interest in work
- Problems sleeping
- Trouble concentrating
- Muscle tension or headaches
- Stomach problems
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of sex drive
- Using alcohol or drugs to cope
Common causes of excessive workplace stress
- Fear of being laid off
- More overtime due to staff cutbacks
- Pressure to perform to meet rising expectations but with no increase in job satisfaction
- Pressure to work at optimum levels – all the time
Reduce job stress by taking care of yourself
When stress at work interferes with your ability to perform in your job, manage your personal life, or adversely impacts your health, it’s time to take action.
Start by paying attention to your physical and emotional health. When your own needs are taken care of, you’re stronger and more resilient to stress. The better you feel, the better equipped you’ll be to manage work stress without becoming overwhelmed.
Taking care of yourself doesn’t require a total lifestyle overhaul. Even small things can lift your mood, increase your energy, and make you feel like you’re back in the driver’s seat.
Take things one step at a time, and as you make more positive lifestyle choices, you’ll soon notice a reduction in your stress levels, both at home and at work.