Don’t Stress Out

For several years, stress has been the number one cause of long-term sick leave in Britain, outdistancing other usual suspects like repetitive strain injuries or illnesses like cancer. It sounds bad – but the real danger is not taking any steps to change that.

In and of itself, stress isn’t such a terrible thing: It’s the body’s natural reaction to change and it requires a physical, mental or emotional adjustment or response. The problem is when our response to this change has a negative impact on us.

Not surprisingly, the workplace is rampant with stress triggers. A sudden increase in workload or responsibility, looming deadlines or even just the fear of losing one’s job can get the stress ball snowballing.

How people react to stress also varies: temporary stressors, like that looming deadline, may actually result in increased productivity or a much-needed burst of energy. Long-term or permanent stressors, however, like a high degree of responsibility, physical labor or long working hours, can actually cause illness. In blue collar jobs especially, permanent stressors like the weather or difficult working conditions also take a toll.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) reports on ‘Absence Management,’ note a clear link between worker well-being and the average number of days an employee misses per year. Employees feeling anxious or stressed about their jobs were more likely to miss work.

The reports also show that employees anxious about their job security were more likely to practice ‘presenteeism.’ Because they feared their companies might be counting how many days of work they missed due to illness and might later use that as a reason to make them redundant, sick employees went to work anyway, prolonging their own illnesses and putting co-workers at risk of infection.

Takes action to reduce that stress

The problem seems to be a sense of powerlessness because workers are well aware of what’s stressing them out. According to the American Psychological Association, three-quarters of all Americans cite workplace stress as the most common stressor; 55 percent claim stress makes them less productive at work. However, of the 55 percent, only five percent actively takes action to reduce that stress.

While stress may not go away, it can sometimes be reduced. Identifying what causes stress is a good first step. Only then can an employee begin to make stress-reducing changes to their life, both at work and at home.

Although there is no one-size-fits-all solution for stress reduction in the workplace, some organizations are taking steps to help their employees. PricewaterhouseCoopers has worked hard to create an open environment where mutual support among employees is both encouraged and rewarded. GlaxoSmithKline has established a program that combines health assessments and discussion groups which are specifically aimed at combatting workplace stress.

In both companies, reports show that overall satisfaction levels are higher and staff turnover is lower. The CIPD survey also revealed another issue: while larger organizations in the private sector tend to be more proactive than smaller ones, the majority of employers believe they could still do more to help employees.

In the interim, however, employees are advised to take matters into their own hands and at the very least … take a chill pill and give Speexx a try.

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