Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The importance of proactively managing workplace stress

Stress is on the rise in America. Over the last thirty years the amount of time Americans have spent at work has steadily risen. According to the International Labor Organization (1997), workers in the United States now “put in the longest hours on the job in industrialized nations…the equivalent of almost two working weeks more than their [next closest] counterparts in Japan” (p. 1).
The recent recession, which resulted in corporate downsizing and layoffs, has forced companies to do more with fewer employees – often by increasing the workloads and thus stress for the remaining employees. Although a certain amount of job stress is to be expected, stress in the workplace can be costly because it affects not just individual well-being but also organizational performance.
What triggers stress?
There are many different factors that can trigger job stress and the triggers and how people react to them can be different for every individual. Common external factors include, “work schedule, pace of work, job security, route to and from work, workplace noise, and the number and nature of customers” (Dessler, 2010, p. 309). Another study found 33% of stress was caused by factors outside the organization while 67% of stress was caused by internal, company factors. The internal factors included heavy or difficult work load, working long hours, leadership (or lack thereof), and work environment (Bhatti, N., Shar, A., Shaikh, F., & Nazar, M., 2010, p. 3).
Understanding the many causes and triggers of job stress makes it easier for managers to take proactive steps to reduce stress before detrimental consequences occur:
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