Easing workplace stress

EKRAM KABIRĀ  | Sunday, 22 May 2022

That workplace stress significantly hampers productivity and increases frictions among co-workers is no revelation. Also an unhappy and stress-afflicted person in most cases fails to deliver what is expected of him or her. 

There have been surveys and studies galore to find out how workplace stress can be reduced. Reducing stress at the workplace should be a conscious call by the management of businesses. If the management really means it wants participation of a less-tensed workforce in taking the company to another level, it might as well imbue the latter with the spirit of company culture. 

The senior management may consider several aspects to make their workplace more relaxed for their co-workers. The word 'relaxation' does not mean indulgence in absolute leisure. But the objective is to keep the cortisol secretion at a psycho-somatically less hazardous level. 

Usually, long working hours, intense and unrealistic demands, bullying, distracting co-workers and lack of communication are responsible for creating a stressful workplace. If a workplace culture supports and encourages open communication, there is every chance of reducing workplace stress. The good news is that many of these measures do not cost anything. 

Long working hours: According to the American Psychological Association, eight in 10 workers in the USA are stressed out about something or other at work. Of the top five workplace stressors, long working hours and job insecurity rank high. Occupational health issues have received increasing attention in recent years.  

A meta-analysis of the effects of long working hours on health in workers found that long working hours increased the risk of various health problems. Although physical health was significantly affected by long working hours, psychological health was also an essential factor. Researchers have found that workers who work long hours are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular diseases and metabolic syndromes. 

Unrealistic demands: Each worker, including the CEO, is familiar with the word 'target' - the index a worker must achieve to maximize revenues and profits. However, some targets may not be humanly possible to achieve, but in many businesses workers are assigned such targets all the time. 

The problem of these intense demands could be solved, to an extent, if the management develops a stress management policy. Hiring human resources manager, who can help co-workers manage stress, may be useful. HR business partners could be a solace, but this aspect may be the last item on their minds as they also could be given unrealistic targets.  

A manager should understand and recognize that workplace stress can have negative impacts on individuals. Caring for a teammate's mind may provide better results than pressurising him or her. Understanding the co-workers can create more satisfied and loyal team members. 

Bullying: If we are dealing with stress and bullying, there are many action points that we can adopt to help our co-workers manage stress. If we witness bullying, we should try to intervene. If we are the one who is being bullied, we should write down the details of our intervention to refer to it later if needed. We can also seek support from colleagues who are working through similar issues.  

If bullying becomes a problem in our workplace, we should empower the employee assistance office to help those affected. Bullying makes people depressed, and surely we do not want a depressed workforce.  

Bullying is especially prevalent among male workers, and most bullies are also male, as most of the workforce is male. Therefore, if we have a workplace filled with males and are bullied, we risk reducing our own productivity. 

Female co-workers encounter different kinds of bullying - gender-related bullying that may undermine their ability and shatter their self-confidence. However, gender-related bullying can also be eliminated if we really want to. 

Many businesses do have policies against bullying, but implementing those has been found to be a herculean task. 

Noise and distractions: It may sound weird, but noise at the workplace is a distraction and a source of stress, as it hinders co-workers from finishing their tasks on time. One way to help reduce the effects of noise is to motivate co-workers to maintain a quiet and soothing environment. People who work in an office with too much noise are more likely to experience a lack of focus and hence less productivity. 

Another way to deal with workplace distractions is to restrict the amount of outside noise. We may easily become distracted by outside noises, such as traffic or construction work. 

Poor communication: Stress can be a result of poor communication at the workplace. Whether it is a lack of respect for co-workers or an unspoken sarcasm, a lack of communication can lead to feelings of urgency, overwork, and stress. While good communication may create predictability and a sense of humour, unhealthy communication can cause tension and fear harming our efficiency. 

Lack of communication between managers and staff can also negatively affect our morale. When we do not know precisely what our manager is trying to do or say, we certainly will stop sharing our views. This can affect our work performance as well as our personal lives. We will stop expressing ourselves because we may not feel heard. Therefore, a lack of clear and open communication among managers can affect morale and motivation, and our company may lose out. 

Experience says, fear among co-workers to speak out causes a company to suffer and miss out many important and innovative ideas. People do not express themselves because they are scared. This may also generate a stress of the Himalayan order. 

Incorporation of stress management in workplace is an excellent idea. It can increase job satisfaction in co-workers, boost productivity and promote wellness in an organisation, having a profound impact on its future. 

Ekram Kabir is a storyteller and a communications professional.  

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