Challenging work doesn't have to be stressful work. But what's the difference? There are many causes of job stress that workers and employers should recognize.
Any workers with physically, mentally, or emotionally demanding jobs may be frequently stressed about work-related injuries, chronic pain, physical demands the job requires, co-worker and supervisor relationships, the ability to continue to make the right decisions for the situation, or personal issues that affect their ability to fully focus on the job putting themselves and their co-workers at risk. Demands of the job, the pressure to provide for one's family, and concern about losing employment prevent many from seeking help which increases their risk for injury, mental distress, depression and anxiety.
Health care expenditures are nearly 50% greater for workers who report high levels of stress. — Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
Common symptoms of stress may include:
- anger or irritability
- physical or emotional tension
- fear and anxiety about the future
- difficulty making decsions or communicating thoughts
- trouble concentrating and difficulty remembering instructions
- being numb to one's feelings
- headaches, back pains or stomach problems
- loss of interest in normal activities
- increased use of drugs or alcohol
- loss of appetite
- sadness and/or crying
- sleep problems
- inability to relax when off duty
- colds or flu-like symptoms
- unnecessary risk taking
OSHA Standard Section 5(a)(1) Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.
Employers that are aware that their employees are facing high stress situations on a regular basis need to incorporate stress prevention and management into the safety training program.
CAUSES OF JOB STRESS THAT WORKERS AND EMPLOYERS SHOULD RECOGNIZE:
The Design of Tasks. Heavy workload, infrequent rest breaks, long work hours and shiftwork; hectic and routine tasks that do not utilize workers' full potential.
Management Style. Poor communication, dictatorship-style management, no worker involvement in decision-making on the job.
Interpersonal Relationships. Social environment at work that lacks support or the inability to get support from co-workers and supervisors when needed.
Work Roles. Conflicting job expectations, uncertainty about what is expected, too much responsibility.
Career Concerns. Job insecurity, lack of opportunity for promotion, too many changes at work without proper preparation given to workers to adapt.
Environmental Conditions. Unsafe or unpleasant work conditions such as crowding, noise, air pollution, ergonomic problems or a hostile work environment.
CHALLENGE IS NOT THE SAME AS STRESS
Job stress is the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of one's job do not match the capabilities, resources or needs of the worker.
Challenges energize workers mentally and physically and motivate employees to learn new skills and master their jobs. Challenge is important for healthy and productive work.