Anxious feelings arising at work are nothing out of the ordinary. Impending deadlines, busy schedules and multiplying communication threads all cause a sense of urgency that, while not necessarily comfortable, can be disconnected from when the working day is done. Stress, however, is a different element entirely.
The CDC defines work stress as the “harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker” and this definition has been used by countless psychological and behavioral scientists as a marker point for studying the effects that stress has on the body and the long term consequences of leaving these symptoms unaddressed.
The Side Effects of Stress
Stress works on the body in two observable ways: physically and emotionally. Someone experiencing stress may exhibit the common signs such as irritability or trouble concentrating, but physically, their body could also be undergoing a series of discomforts like headaches, gastrointestinal upsets and increased blood pressure. The longer stress continues, the more severe these symptoms become leading to chronic migraines, sleep disturbances and even cardiovascular disease.
These are not infrequent occurrences that come and go as projects evolve. Complications from prolonged stress can alter a person’s health for a considerable amount of time. The psychological ramifications of an entire workforce suffering from these types of ailments could be devastating to the future of companies. This is why so many companies are taking notice and doing something about it now before it’s too late.
Beyond Work/Life Balance
People can’t help but take their work home with them when it is affecting their health. 56 percent of surveyed individuals with the Anxiety Disorders Association of America reported that stress not only affects their attitude, but also their job performance, resulting in poorer workplace performance and productivity, low morale among team members and higher overall turnover for the company. This influences the personal lives of the employees causing them to suffer from irritability and absentmindedness in their off time.
Searching for another job compounds the stress they are already feeling and puts an emotional and financial strain on any household. Watching their co-workers become frustrated and move on causes even high performing team members to doubt their working conditions and transition to companies with less “drama”. This domino effect of retention makes every part of a company’s overall mission harder in the long run.
The number one reason employees don’t feel they can be communicative about their stress levels at work is that they fear retaliation. The idea that they could be seen as unwilling to work or “weak” at their job because they are feeling overwhelmed dominates a person’s unwillingness to come forward and solve the problems they are facing. Having the conversation about workplace stressors often and EARLY mitigates these fears by an overwhelming margin, making team members feel more secure that, should they encounter any of the above symptoms, they have someone they can go to for support.
Investing in mental health programs for employees is an excellent way to provide resources of wellness and show compassionate support to those struggling. Having someone outside of the company structure is incredibly reassuring and instills trust in employees that the company not only understands that tools for wellbeing are important, but that they are willing to provide them, not just talk about them.
A World of Benefit
Successful companies utilize the strength of their resources to offer support in every aspect of their business. Relying on these resources is the foundation of safe and successful working environments! By understanding the signs of stress, mitigating its effects and providing an open dialogue when it presents itself, stress can be handled early and effectively. Leaning into resources of stress management means securing mental wellness for a brighter more productive future!