Handling stress at the workplace: A matter of priority
Several situations throughout our life become stressful: work relationships, love relationships, economical situations, family life and certainly, our work, the place where we spend most of our time. As we well know, stress is the biological and behavioral response to situations perceived as threatening and to which people do not have enough resources to face them properly. Therefore, stress starts to have an effect at a physical and mental level, disturbing our health, interpersonal relationships and even putting our work at risk.
Some time ago, organizations have started to give higher importance to work diseases, and recently the known burnout syndrome was incorporated to the international classification of the World Health Organization. The burnout is considered a syndrome produced by a large exposition to stressing situations that generate feelings of inefficiency and physical and emotional exhaustion, which cause a series of negative feelings and behaviors towards work.
It is important to mention that work stress is a psycho-social phenomenon that involves both work-related factors, and individually inherent conditions. Furthermore, it is fundamental to know that stress also has a positive connotation known as eustress, which implies the tension generated by challenges at work that allow the individual to stay alert and with the willingness to learn, improve skills and develop professionally. Therefore, in its approach, it is necessary to contemplate from situations such as: job roles and description, employee recognition programs, schedules, training, communication, relationships, autonomy and leadership, to personal and family circumstances, as well as the right balance between a challenging or a draining environment.
Every company is interested in accomplishing the best productivity possible by their employees. Hence, it is necessary to know what factors affect the biopsychosocial wellbeing of their personnel and to have a clear strategy of the approach to use. The International Labour Organization (ILO) guides companies regarding the different levels of intervention to consider for this phenomenon:
- Primary prevention: Eliminating psychosocial risks inherent to work that could be affecting workers.
- Secondary prevention: Training workers in different techniques that allow for a better adaptation to the stressful situations and acquiring tool for coping with it.
- Tertiary prevention: Intervening in those cases that are already showing symptoms of stress or exhaustion, providing support for their attention and recovery.
It is worthwhile to inform about some common symptoms in under work stress that allow for the identification and support, clarifying that their symptoms are not limited to these behaviors and for a formal diagnosis, there should be a punctual analysis of every case.
- Physical and psychical exhaustion
- Irritability and intolerance
- Feeling of unappreciation
- Distraction and constant mistakes
- Physical symptoms such as pain in the neck or back, and headaches
- Altered sleep and eating patterns
- Lack of energy and satisfaction with tasks
- Excessive criticism of work or tasks
Although, formally, the employees’ health and wellbeing is delegated to Human Resources and Occupational Health in the organizations, this is a duty that comes implied in the job positions of anyone with personnel under their supervision. And particularly a priority for upper management and supervisors, not just because of the adverse effects of this work phenomenon (low productivity and creativity, rotation and absenteeism, deterioration of the workplace, among others.), but for the integral value of each one of the people who make up the organization.
Authors: Daniela Segura Valerín y Marianela Sánchez Alvarado