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Stress is one of the biggest, and possibly most underrated factors affecting your workforce today. Simply stated, stress can be defined as, 'an individual's reaction to excessive pressure'. It’s not a disease, but if stress continues to build, or goes on for a long time it can lead to health problems both mental (depression, nervous breakdown) and physical (heart disease).
Common causes of stress include:
Interestingly, 98% managers felt their staff worked better when under stress - so perhaps stress is in the eye of the beholder!
You need to look for pressures at work that could cause high and long-lasting levels of stress, and try to identify individuals who might suffer.
The symptoms of stress are not always recognisable. People tend to link it to a short temper and a lack of tolerance, but stress can lead to depression in the long-term.
Signs of severe tiredness and forgetfulness may sometimes be attributed to a bad attitude and a lack of interest, but these can be the long-term effects of stress. It is important to recognise this because trying to pressure individuals into working harder or 'doing the job properly' may actually make the problem worse.
Remember also that a monotonous job that makes no real use of the individual's capabilities can be just as stressful for that individual as a highly demanding one can for another.
You need to talk to individual employees who you feel may be under pressure in order to find out what the real problem might be, remembering that stress can also lead to physical health problems, such as:
Once workplace stress has been identified, you need to take the necessary steps to reduce both the levels of stress and the effect it has already had on your employees. Developing and implementing a strategy that both reduces existing stress and prevents its occurrence in future (including an opportunity for individuals to identify their own stress levels) is a good first step.
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