Workplace Mental Health and Stress 101

Categories: Workplace Wellness

Job stress has become a common and costly problem in the American workplace, leaving few workers untouched. For example, studies report the following:

  • One-fourth of employees view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives. (Northwestern National Life)
  • Three-fourths of employees believe workers have more on-the-job stress than a generation ago. (Princeton Survey Research Associates)
  • Problems at work are more strongly associated with health complaints than are any other life stressor … more so than even financial problems or family problems. (St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Co.)

Fortunately, research on job stress has greatly expanded in recent years. But in spite of this attention, confusion remains about the causes, effects, and prevention of job stress.

What Is Job Stress?

Job stress can be defined 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. Job stress can lead to poor health and even injury.

The concept of job stress is often confused with “challenge,” but these concepts are not the same. Challenge energizes us psychologically and physically, and it motivates us to learn new skills and master our jobs. When a challenge is met, we feel relaxed and satisfied. Challenges are an important ingredient for healthy and productive work. The importance of challenge in our work lives is probably what people are referring to when they say

“a little bit of stress is good for you.”

But job stress is different: It happens when job demands cannot be met, when relaxation has turned to exhaustion, and a sense of satisfaction has turned into feelings of pressure and anxiety. In short, the stage is set for illness, injury and job failure.

Signs of Job Stress

There are short-term and long-term signs of job stress. Some immediate signs may include:

  • Headaches
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Short temper
  • Upset stomach
  • Job dissatisfaction
  • Low morale

But even more insidious are the long-term effects of chronically experiencing job stress which may include:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Musculoskeletal disorders.
  • Psychological disorders (such as depression and burnout)
  • Workplace Injury

Chronic workplace stress is simply not good for you! But if you are experiencing this kind of stress, what can you do right now to reduce the tension? Click here for tips.

 Article adapted from National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.