Workplaces can be busy and stressful with pressure to meet KPIs, budgets or other targets. This pressure can be felt at all levels of the organisation to a greater or lesser extent. Other sources of stress include conflict with co-workers or managers, constant change, lack of job security, long hours of work, and unrealistic expectations and/or responsibilities. Regardless of the industry in which you operate, the wellbeing of your employees is paramount.
Workplace stress occurs when the demands of the job exceed the person's capacity to cope. This varies from person-to-person. For example, one person might perceive organisational change as a challenge but another person might feel overwhelmed or resentful. Someone might thrive with additional responsibilities and higher targets, but someone else might really struggle. A person's stress level, ability to cope and their perception of a situation(s) depends on the circumstances of the job and other factors such as general health, psychological makeup, past experiences and personal situation.
Mental illness is very common. Approximately 20% of people each year have a mental illness and almost 50% of people will have a mental illness over their lifetime. It is very likely then that workplaces and managers will have workers who have a mental illness at some point. Nevertheless, many people experience stress and distress without reaching a clinical threshold or receiving a psychiatric diagnosis.
From a business perspective, healthy workers are more productive, have fewer sick days, contribute to a positive working culture and staff morale, and there is greater staff retention. So it is a financial win. Professionally, there is an obligation to ensure that your workers are well supported and are able to perform their job. Workplace stress is an occupational health and safety issue.
Safe Work Australia published the 'Work-Related Mental Health Disorders Profile, 2015' which reports that approximately 6% of all workers' compensation claims relate to work-related mental health conditions and about $480 million is paid in compensation. Ninety percent of mental health claims relate to workplace stress with work pressure (32%) and workplace harassment and/or bullying (24%) accounting for the majority of claims. Employees suffering workplace stress have an average 14.8 weeks off work compared to the average 5.3 weeks for all compensation claims.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics 'Work-related Injuries Survey 2013–14' showed that 60% of employees who were eligible to make a claim for workers’ compensation reported they experienced mental stress in the workplace but did not apply for workers’ compensation. We can see then that the rate of workplace stress is probably much greater than is reflected in the statistics by Safe Work Australia.
SIGNS OF WORKPLACE STRESS:
An increase in sick days
A drop in work performance
Tearfulness and crying
Isolating and withdrawing from colleagues
Lack of interest in the job
Attending work substance affected
FACTORS ASSOCIATED WITH WORKPLACE STRESS:
Most people experience their workplace as stressful at times, although the majority are able to cope and manage these stresses. There are a range factors which contribute to workplace stress.
Toxic or unhealthy organisational culture
Bad management practices
Excessive demands of the job and role responsibilities e.g., long hours, tight deadlines and high workload
Poorly defined job roles
Lack of recognition and reward
Low job satisfaction
Poor relationships with managers and colleagues
Physical work environment e.g., lack of resources or equipment
Lack of autonomy and over-supervision
Harassment and discrimination
Traumatic events e.g., victim of workplace robbery, vehicle accident
FACTORS ASSOCIATED WITH A HEALTHY WORKPLACE:
* A workplace that values the employee's contribution and cares about their wellbeing
* Having a supportive manager
* Having opportunities to learn and develop
* Receiving regular feedback and recognition for work done
* A workplace that encourages work-life balance and is supportive when dealing with family demands
* Employee engagement where people feel involved in their job
WAYS TO ENHANCE THE WORKPLACE AND REDUCE EMPLOYEE STRESS:
Organisations and business units can take action to reduce the level of employee stress, create a positive workplace culture and enhance employee wellbeing. These include:
Ensure appropriate training and professional development opportunities
Encourage an environment where employees can have a voice and express their ideas and opinions
Communicate changes in advance where possible
Ensure that tasks and responsibilities are manageable
Hire more staff to complete the work and reduce overtime
Make adjustments to workload and conditions in recognition of stress e.g., flexible working arrangements, changing some aspects of the job, modifying the work area, allowing extra time to complete tasks
Consult employees regarding workload, performance targets and decision making
Promote work-life balance e.g., part-time employment, remote access, time in lieu
Establish a Human Resources Department
Develop strategies and policies to increase job satisfaction and employee wellbeing
Use performance planning and review processes as a positive and productive collaboration rather than a punitive one
Provide sufficient resources and conducive physical work environment
Be flexible and creative - arrange an in-service off-site, provide lunchtime yoga, exercise sessions or shoulder massages, and look for team building opportunities
Provide access to counselling and professional support to employees
Seek professional advice and support as an organisation
It is time to invest in the mental health and wellbeing of your employees.
Are you up to it?