Workplace stress is startlingly familiar and yet; it is still an illness that is rarely discussed, let alone understood. With concerted efforts from various agencies, charities, employers and employees, attitudes towards stress and how genuinely debilitating it can be are finally changing. It is everyone’s responsibility to look for fear, to recognise it and to deal with it. Employers have a duty of care to their staff and thus, they need to be alert to the possibility of stress lurking in the shadows. There are several key indicators that someone is feeling the pressure that is creating the burden of stress. Look out for:
- A change in the normal behaviour of the employee such as becoming withdrawn, irritable and other characteristics that are uncharacteristic
- A change in their appearance
- A lack of concentration or even commitment, such as being late
Stress causes involuntary reactions. We may try and hide our primary symptoms but they will become apparent. Managers and supervisors certainly have their part to play in not only recognising signs of stress but minimising the risk factors within the workplace.
Thus, identifying the stressors, the triggers that create a stress reaction in people is important:
DEMAND – where an employee indicates they are unable to cope with the demands placed upon them
It may be, for example, that an employee may not only feel overloaded with work but also that what they are doing is boring or repetitive. They may be working excessively long hours, as well as the environment in which they work, is no longer conducive to the right relationships or an atmosphere in which to complete tasks.
It is also a common stressor when employees feel that they are not given enough work to do, or that tasks are delegated unequally.
CONTROL – when an employee feels that they are ‘last to know’ or have no say over their work, or how it should be done
This can also be about work/life balance too, something that we hear a lot more of in the modern age. Being dedicated and working hard is one thing, feeling that you must do it to stay in control is another – and it has negative consequences too.
Sometimes, the traditional rigid working patterns that we come across in various sectors and industries can make it nigh on impossible for some employees to find this work/life balance. Or, they may feel that they are at the centre of a conflict between one manager and another.
Feeling out of control is a common stressor for many people.
SUPPORT – some employees can feel that they have a lack of support for their role
Job roles changes; in some instances, they are fluid, answering the call and nature of the business and sector that they occupy. This is all well and good but there are times when employees can feel uneasy with this lack of clarity.
Where it can become an issue is when people are unsure as to who should be doing what. Communication, feedback and review are all ways in which this stressor can be negated.
COMMUNICATION - employees who feel ‘left in the dark’ can become stressed
Lack of support, encouragement, career progression, the feeling that information is being withheld and so on are all key to causing stress in some employees. This is also as much to do with the culture and atmosphere within an office setting too.
RELATIONSHIPS – poor working relationships are a frequent cause of stress
From not getting on with a line manager to poor information sharing and relationships within a team, when there are friction and tension between people, it can lead to stress levels that make people physically and emotionally ill.
CHANGE – when things change… and people are unsure of where or how they fit in
Change is by far for many people, the most stress-inducing factor that exists within their workplace (and personal life too). Fear of the unknown, concerns over job security and so on, make for a worrying, stressful time for people.
Understanding stressors mean understanding your staff
You know your business and you hopefully also known your staff. Clearly, there are times when information is commercially sensitive and not to be shared but, there are also times when people need help to be able to deal with various aspects at work.
Creating an open workplace, where employees feel that they can share their worries and concerns, as well as feeling valued is important. Work is a two-way process, something that everyone has a stake in. How do you identify workplace stress?