Do you love your job? Even if you answered “Yes” I bet there are times when you will be under pressure. It is mainly in the workplace that we come under the most consistent pressure; pressure to achieve, pressure to perform or pressure to deliver. What we call stress is the way in which we handle pressure.

A US Study showed as many as 40% of workers who described their occupation as being ‘very stressful’; 30% said “stressful’; 22% claimed ‘some stress’ and only 6% said ‘there was no stress at work’. (The missing 2% were possibly so laid back they didn’t understand the question.)

Stress has a direct effect on the productivity of companies; with statistics from the UK indicating that working days lost per annum appear to have been about 6.5 million in the mid-1990’s. That figure had risen to over 13 million by 2001. The fact that we are becoming more aware of the effects of stress and less reluctant to report it may account for this increase, but the bottom line is that stress related down time is increasing.

UK HSE statistics suggest stress-related costs to UK employers in the region of £700m every year on these figures and the data for Queensland follows this trend.
For example, the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission has calculated the direct cost of stress related claims in Australia as around $105.5 million in 2000-2001 or 4% of all claims for compensation. Indirect costs such as lost productivity, loss of income and quality of life are not included in these estimates.” ~ Quality public service workplaces – Information Paper No.9 Stress at work Office of Public Service Merit and Equity (State of Queensland) June 2006)

There are some typical causes of stress at work:

  • expectations, responsibilities and performance pressure
  • long working hours
  • lack of effective communication
  • continuous unreasonable performance demands
  • lack of job security
  • lack of recognition for achievements
  • office politics and conflict among staff
  • bullying or harassment,
  • excessive time away from home and family

There are probably more, but these are the ones most often quoted by workers suffering from stress.

Stress is often compared to having a frozen nose in artic conditions. You don’t recognise the problem and are only alerted to it by others who notice the signs.

So what are the Signs of stress?

The scientific methods is by measuring the levels of cortisol and DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), being produced by the adrenal glands. But of course we do not have access to these methods in the work place, so a careful manager must rely on other signs which may not be exclusively due to stress. However they are a good indication that stress may be present and can include:

  • performance drops below acceptable standard
  • uncharacteristic errors or missed deadlines
  • poor concentration or poor memory retention
  • sleep difficulties
  • loss of appetite
  • outbursts of anger or rage
  • emotional outbursts
  • alcohol or drug abuse
  • nervous habits

There is no doubt that stress in the workplace should be of major concern to all of us. This week I will be focusing on how we can take back control of the pressure we work under, and put into place some strategies for minimising its impact.

The first strategy is to register for the Trischel Breakfast session “Putting Stress into Perspective” being held in Brisbane on 15th May.


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