Home » General » Work-Related Stress Can Be Managed [column]

Believe it or not, in most of the job interviews that you have attended at various stages of your career, nine out of ten of the prospective employers did not close the interview session without asking you questions on your ability to work under pressurised environments and how you react to stressful situations.

I have often wondered why this uniform question arises in the talent acquisition equation but the simple reason is that employers know that excessive or sustained work pressure can lead to stress. There are so many definitions to stress given by various scholars but in this article I will make an attempt to make you understand work-related stress and how important it is for employers to manage it.

Work-related stress is the aerse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them at work.

People become stressed when they feel they don’t have the resources they need which include material, financial emotional etc. to cope with these demands.

Due to economic challenges which include tight liquidity conditions, company closures, rising formal unemployment, low production levels, non-performing loans and a disproportionate trade balance cited in the Confederation of Zimbabwean Industries (CZI) 2014 Manufacturing Sector Survey, it is more likely that there is so much of work related stress affecting employees in some organisations which need to be managed well for the benefit of the these organisations as resources are so scarce.

There is sometimes confusion between the terms pressure and stress. It is healthy and essential that people experience challenges within their lives that cause levels of pressure, for example the need to make decisions quickly when faced with a dangerous situation. And up to a certain point, an increase in pressure can improve performance, such as feeling motivated to meet a deadline.

However, if pressure becomes excessive, it loses its beneficial effect and becomes harmful and destructive to health.

From my experience, the main causes of stress at work include: excessive workload, non-work-related relationship or family issues, management style (for example a bullying or poorly trained line manager who is so toxic in nature), poor working relationships or being faced with a large amount of organisation change or restructuring.

If people feel under too much stress and for too long, mental and physical illness may develop. Occupational stress poses a risk to most businesses.

For example, in the matter between Makwiro Platinum Mines v Pritchard Paradzayi, SC4604, the Supreme Court held that “His undisciplined behaviour created a stressful atmosphere and made it impossible for the other employees to get any sleep, factors which could aersely affect his co-employees as regards the service which they rendered to their employer.”

The first signs that indicate that employees might be suffering from excessive pressure or stress are changes in behaviour or performance.

The kinds of change that may occur include declininginconsistence performance, lapses in memory, increased time at work, crying, arguments, loss of commitmentmotivation, moodiness, personality clashes, malicious gossip, arriving late at work, reduced social contact, evasiveness, absenteeism, shouting, temper outbursts, reckless driving, accidents at work, tiredness, sweating, tension headaches etc.

Under what is known as the common law, employers have a duty to take care of employees.

It is actually believed by human resource experts that if an organisation that starts by addressing the needs of its employees, there is a higher chance of obtaining the desired profit.

Managing work-related stress includes undertaking risk assessments and managing activities to reduce the incidence of stress at work. To reduce workplace stress, actions could be taken including:

Undertaking a stress audit and subsequently directing resources to reduce or eliminate the sources of stress.

Developing the people management skills and confidence of managers at all levels so they feel able to have the appropriate conversations with staff.

Developing supportive work ethos to encourage staff to discuss stress and seek support when experiencing stress.

Other interventions across the workforce as a whole may be considered, to help build workforce resilience and teach techniques to cope with stress, such as:

Stress management and training in relaxation techniques.

Promoting healthy behaviour and exercise.

Improved work-life balance.

Personal counselling programmes.

Should your organisation have a stress policy?

It is more likely that many organisations have developed sound human resources management policies to underpin the needs of their businesses.

In most situations I have experienced that organisations have developed wider well-being policies which are much more effective in maximising the well-being of their employees rather than merely developing a stress policy.

It is a known fact that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has taken an approach that includes wider issues on the well-being of people in various places or communities.

My personal opinion is that your organisation needs to include a ‘well-being’ policy into its Human Resource Policy Manual containing the following elements:

A clear statement which shows that the organisation is committed to developing a working environment that promotes the health and well-being of the organisation and its employees.

Must be supported by senior management.

Must be kept under constant review together with other policies, procedures and initiatives to ensure that they maximise employee well-being.

Must provide for identification of and a regular review of the key well-being indicators.

Ensure the provision of effective aice, support, counselling and training to enhance employee well-being.

Must incorporate the process for evaluating the effectiveness of all well-being initiatives.

In conclusion I would like to emphasise that the starting point for effective prevention of stress is good people management.

I believe that people work more effectively within a participative management style and people are better motivated when work satisfies economic, social and psychological needs.

Employers who pay attention to employee well being and equip managers at all levels with people management skills will better support employee engagement and well-being programs during good and bad times.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author Matthias Ruziwa is an experienced and growing Strategic Human Resource Practitioner. He is also an independent arbitrator practicing in the Midlands Province, City of Kwekwe.

Source : The Herald