How to handle work-related stress? Employees experience stress when greater demands and expectations are placed on the job than they are able to cope with, master or control. Employees who experience stress over a long period of time can develop serious physical and mental health problems.
Work-related stress is often due to problems at the company level, and must therefore be handled at this level. The causes of work-related stress are often due to the way the work is organized and arranged, and how the work tasks are distributed. How to handle work-related stress?
“Stress reactions are the body’s emergency preparedness, and occur when we are exposed to challenging or overloading situations. This can be, for example, when something unexpected happens, or we are faced with great demands and expectations over time. If this reaction is prolonged, it can lead to serious health problems.”
The employee must not make stress an individual problem. No two people are exactly alike, and we have different prerequisites for dealing with our own work situations.
The Working Environment Act sets a general requirement for the work to be organized and arranged so that the individual employee’s ability to work, expertise, age, and other prerequisites are taken into account.
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Various factors in the employment relationship can involve risk and be the source of work-related stress. These can include:
- For long working days over time
- The imbalance between tasks and resources, for example, due to excessive workload, too high job intensity or too short deadlines
- Conflicting requirements
- Lack of clarity regarding the role of the employee
- Inefficient communication
- Organizational changes, especially if they are handled poorly
Other risk factors are that work-related stress can also occur as a result of problems in relationships with others, for example in situations with:
- lack of support from management or colleagues
- bad interpersonal relationships, such as conflicts
- violence, threats and unfortunate strains as a result of contact with others, such as customers, clients, patients, users etc.
Work-related stress can also occur when there are difficulties in reconciling work, leisure, and/or family obligations.
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Advice for employees
- If you have symptoms of stress, think through the work situation and try to find out if the cause is there.
- Talk to your safety representative and employer if you are stressed.
- Do not wait to do something about the problems.
Healthy and unhealthy stress
The feeling that the body is on alert can be unpleasant, but the alarm reaction is completely normal. If we solve the challenge that stresses us, or if we expect to be able to solve it, the body’s emergency preparedness quickly goes down again. It is necessary for us to be able to react quickly in certain stressful situations, and the stress reaction is therefore basically healthy.
The stress that is harmful to health occurs when situations that stress us do not disappear or are handled, but persist for a long time. If the body produces large amounts of adrenaline and cortisol over a long period of time, it will continue to be on constant alert. When the body is not allowed to relax in this way, it becomes harmful to us.
Symptoms of stress
If you are stressed for a long time, you will start to erode the body’s immune system, and this can lead to an imbalance in almost all systems. If you have several of these symptoms over a long period of time, it may be a sign that you are experiencing harmful stress.
Long-term stress can increase the risk of developing diseases and ailments, such as headaches, neck, shoulder, and back pain, anxiety, depression, and cardiovascular disease.
- Trembling hands
- Stomach problems (digestive problems)
- Lack of appetite
- Frequent infections
- Exacerbation of chronic diseases such as psoriasis and diabetes
- Poorer memory
- Lack of concentration
- Lack of desire to go to work
- Negative thoughts about themselves
- Low self-esteem
- Worse mood, frustration, irritation
- Emotionally unstable
Behavioural signs of stress
- Sleep problems
- Lack of commitment
- Difficult to work with
- Increased use of stimulants such as coffee, smoking and alcohol
- Increased use of sleeping and sedative medications
- Less physical activity/exercise
- Increased use of sick leave
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Why is it important to handle work-related stress?
The organizational and psychosocial work environment is of great importance for the employees’ health and welfare. In addition to consequences for the individual employee, it can have consequences for both the company and society.
Good prevention and management of work-related stress will, firstly, lead to employees not becoming ill as a result of work-related stress, and will thus be able to provide lower sickness absences and costs associated with this. Secondly, it will lead to commitment, contribute to a good working environment and increase productivity.
“Take the employees for advice, then it will be easier to implement relevant and necessary preventive measures. Those who wear the shoe know best where it presses.”
How can work-related stress be prevented?
Work-related stress can be assessed and prevented in the same systematic way as is used for other health, environmental and safety risks in the workplace.
The Working Environment Act requires the employer to map potential sources of stress at work, assess these risks and take measures to ensure a fully safe working environment. The law also requires employees to participate in this work.
Who should be involved in the work of preventing work-related stress?
How to handle work-related stress? Employers, middle managers, and employees must work together to have a good working environment. In this work, safety representatives, shop stewards and possibly the working environment committee and the occupational health service have an important role.