One of the greatest sources of stress at work is caused by the innovations that have been created to make work easier. While it is true that there are already so many inventions and technological devices that have been invented to help people accomplish more at work, the result is far from the anticipated goal of allowing people to rest more.
The increased capability of performing more work has been off-set by the fact that more and more tasks are placed upon the employees. The fact paced working environment and steady competition has changed the way work is being done and increased the stress levels. When a few decades ago companies only had to contend with local or national competition, the current business environment faces competition from firms and companies all over the world.
Another factor which adds to the stress in any working environment, aside from the increased pressure to produce more, is the fact that the stress in the work place negatively affects the health of employees thus causing more absences and adding more pressure to catch up with the work load. It has been suggested that stress can be thought of as resulting from an “imbalance between demands and resources” or as occurring when “pressure exceeds ones perceived ability to cope” (Sedgeman 2005).
The most common reasons for stress are poor working conditions such as excessive noise or heat and crowded or poorly designed workspaces, a lack of control over work, time pressures, long or inflexible working hours, too much or too little work or responsibility, confusion about duties and responsibilities, including role ambiguity, a lack of variety and interest in job, inadequate training and possibilities for learning new skills, poor work-life balance, difficult relationships with supervisors and coworkers, lack of support from colleagues, isolation from colleagues, organizational confusion, restructuring, and job change.
All of these factors contribute to stress at the work place. It is important to note however that the effect or weight of each of these factors differs from person to person. Over the years, there has been more emphasis on job specialization and training. Aside from performing the regular work tasks, employees are also expected and pressured to meet higher expectations and maintain their competitive edge constantly. These factors were not as prevalent in the work place a few decades ago as they are now.
There have been a number of studies on the relationship between stress and job performance that show that as the level of work related stress increases the job performance and satisfaction level also changes. Some of the consequences of stress include, job-related consequences such as low performance and absenteeism, emotion related consequences such as irritability and depression which affect work place relationships, and physiological consequences such as high blood pressure and other illnesses.
All of these consequences affect the worker’s ability to perform his/her task at work and are also detrimental to the work atmosphere as more irritable people are less likely to contribute to team-related tasks and goals. Absenteeism is also a problem as it directly affects the work output of not only an individual worker but of the team or unit as well. Many techniques have been implemented to reduce worker stress. In a number of Japanese firms, certain activities such as worker exercise programs have been implemented in an effort to keep the employees in better shape.
Other workplaces over the world have taken advantage of the technical advances in communications technology and used these to reduce worker stress levels. Some of these programs include the permitting of certain employees to telecommute at least once or twice a week in order to create a more relaxed yet productive working environment. Other programs included involving the families of the workers in group activities and corporate activities.
While these have been shown to have mixed effects in relation to coping with stress, these activities have also shown that the most important way of dealing with work related stress lies in showing the employees that their employer cares about their welfare and is instituting programs to deal with such. In the long run, there is really no sure fire method of dealing with stress. There will always be different stress levels and methods of coping with them. The most important thing that remains, however, is that something is done.
A proactive stance is still better than anything.
References: Bower, J. E. & Segerstrom, S. C. (2004). Stress management, finding benefit, and immune function: positive mechanisms for intervention effects on physiology. Journal of Psychosomatic Research 56(1): 9-11 Sedgeman, J. A. (2005). Health Realization/Innate Health: Can a quiet mind and a positive feeling state be accessible over the lifespan without stress-relief techniques? Med. Sci. Monitor 11(12) HY47-52.