In everyday life, we have to cope with situations that require extremely hard work. Although this is crucial for success and financial benefits, employees may suffer from severe health problems. This is due to the fact that occupational demands can exert a negative effect on the individual’s well-being. Societies during the industrial and post-industrial era, have been nurtured with the belief that pressure on workforce is necessary for organizations and companies to achieve their goals. However, there is a growing awareness that this view should be challenged and employers and policy makers should focus on protecting workers’ health and well-being. To do so, it is crucial to obtain an in depth analysis and understanding of the causal mechanisms that lead to work-related stress. In this regard, the present paper will attempt to investigate the impact of work-related stress on employees’ health.
IntroductionNowadays, most workers face great challenges due to occupational demands. The majority of organizations and companies invest a lot on labor. Under this perspective, workers are considered assets and companies’ profit and financial prosperity is analogous to employees’ efforts (Tennant, 2001). In a similar vein, employers tend to blame their staff, when their business does not gain enough profit. In these cases, employees experience strict work conditions, unnecessary pressure and even face the possibility of losing their jobs. The present study seeks to reveal some of the health hazards posed to workers due to increased pressure at work.Stress at workIt is true that we all need some motive to appreciate our work and even obtain pleasure from it.
This is why people rush to meet deadlines. If our work environment was devoid of deadlines, workers would probably not have much to do and may even find themselves bored. This is a waste of workforce, given that productivity and profits largely depend on workers’ ability to complete their tasks within certain time lines (Tennant, 2001). In addition, modern life is full of struggles, satisfactions, frustrations and endless demands.For most individuals, stress is the rule and an inevitable aspect of life. Although it is generally considered harmful and counter-productive, there is also the view that it may carry beneficial effects.
Stress can motivate people to be more productive and to cope more effectively with pressuring situations, maximizing their potential (Bambra, 2007). However, it can have a negative impact when it exceeds people’s coping ability. At such an instance, stress may even compromise people’s physical and mental health.
Financial activities are constantly changing and employers are struggling to produce products that meet consumers’ needs (Bambra, 2007). In this respect, workers are placed under a great amount of pressure to meet the challenges of a constantly evolving labor market. As consumers’ demands change, so do workers’ expertise and required qualifications. For example, a company dealing with phones may discover that mobile phones without internet services are no longer in demand. The company will maximize its efforts to ensure that enough stock is available for sale (Tennant, 2001).
These increased demands may generate additional stress.Work-related stress poses a great danger to physical, mental and social well-being. Working involves the use of physical, emotional and cognitive resources.
For example, if an individual strains in manual work, like carrying a heavy load, he or she may experience bodily pains. The same applies for people who do demanding brainwork, which may lead to mental fatigue and compromise their psychological well-being. In light of these observations, we can assume that work-related stress not only adversely influences workers’ physical health, but its effects extend to psychological functioning. [Stress at work is a reality and may have a positive component, namely it can motivate workers and increase their productivity]- maybe this sentence is not necessary and should be erased.As mentioned earlier, most organizations are constantly facing time and environment changes; hence pressure at work urges workers to cope with the novel circumstances. Most governments have recognized the fact that work settings pose a great danger to health. Policies to ensure workers’ safety have been implemented.
The U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has established categories of prevention and has developed a summary of intervention levels. Primary prevention refers to any action to protect the health of people who have not yet become sick. Secondary prevention involves early detection and prompt and effective efforts to manage illness at an early stage, before major complications arise (for example, reversing high blood pressure and preventing arterial plague formation before a heart attack occurs). Tertiary prevention consists of measures to reduce or eliminate long-term impairments and disabilities and minimize suffering due to an existing illness (for example, rehabilitation and return to work after a heart attack) (Landsbergis, 2009).Impact of work-related stress on healthRapid economic growth and sharp rise in consumer needs may create occupational demands intolerable for workers, leading to inadequate coping. Through this pathway, pressure arises among employees.
Stress escalates and the majority of workers become vulnerable to depression or insomnia. There are also occupational consequences such as job dissatisfaction, decreased commitment to the organization’s agenda (Bambra, 2007), decreased performance and failing to report to duty or non attendance. Ellis argues that in early stages, work-related stress can “stimulate” the body and enhance occupational performance, hence the phrase ‘I perform better while under pressure’.
However, if this condition continues unmanaged and the body is further “stimulated”, productivity will eventually decline and the person’s health will degenerate (Allis, 2005).There is a wide variation on how people react to work-related stress and these reactions depend on the amount and the duration of stress. Typical symptoms include insomnia, loss of mental concentration, anxiety, depression, sexual problems, alcohol and drug use, diabetes, heart disease, migraine, headaches, high blood pressure, digestive problems, skin rushes, sweating, blurred vision, tiredness and sleep problems, muscular tension, stomach and back problems. Work-related stress may interfere with family life. [There are cases where spouses fail to fulfill their conjugal obligations].- this I think should be erased- Employees’ emotional and sexual life can be adversely affected, due to mood swings, poor appetite and demoralization.In a study conducted by Greiner et al.
, (1998), in a random sample of over 300 German medical doctors and consultants, several job-related variables and sociodemographic data were assessed, including time-related parameters work, and specific categories of accidents (moving vehicle and work-related). Occupational stress was found to be related to weekly working hours, lunch-break duration and age. The number of moving vehicle accidents was significantly correlated with the incidence of work-related accidents during the last year. There was no evidence that medical doctors working longer weekly hours were more likely to be involved in a driving or work-related accident per se, but they did tend to report more accidents during house visits. Moving vehicle accidents were best predicted by the onset of working day, as well as the number of dependent children (more children were associated with fewer accidents). Furthermore, work-related accidents were significantly more frequent in larger communities and when surgeries lasted longer (Tennant, 2001).There has been an ongoing observation on the impact stress has on people’s general health.
One out of ten people we meet in everyday life is over stressed at any given moment. Scientists agree that stress causes detectable chemical changes in the brain, and these changes can influence health status (Cornforth, 2007). Stress has been associated with numerous somatic complaints, cancer and chronic fatigue syndrome. Women are vulnerable to menstrual disorders. Hormonal imbalances as a result of stress may trigger the symptoms of fibroid tumors and endometriosis, leading to infertility and sexual dysfunction (Greiner et al., 1998). High blood pressure, heart attacks and stroke are also serious stress-related cardiovascular conditions.Stress may interfere with female sexuality and cause sexual difficulties such as decreased desire and vaginal dryness.
As outlined earlier, emotional problems may also arise including depression, anxiety and sleep deprivation. Gastrointestinal disorders, for example, ulcers and lower abdominal cramps constitute frequent manifestations of stress. In most cases, people suffering from work-related stress are more vulnerable to infections due to dysfunction of the immune system (Greiner et al., 1998). As noted earlier, work-related stress not only affects physical functioning, but also disturbs psychological well-being. It may have major psychological consequences. Busy schedules, arguments between colleagues or line managers with their junior staffs, accountants under pressure to settle bills or inconveniences due to traffic jam are all paradigms of typical situations where work-related stress may emerge.
Under pressure, the body exhibits intense physiological reactions, similar to those when the individual is threatened and has to make a choice between life and death. This is an unpleasant situation and can produce a large amount of bodily tension. Workers with lots of duties, responsibilities and worries due to deadlines, respond to stress in a hyper-vigilant way.
In fact, there are workers who have to deal with similar situations throughout their working lifespan. Such long-term exposure to stress may be translated to serious health problems and long-term complications. This is what is referred to as chronic stress, which actually disorganizes almost every bodily system. It may contribute to the emergence of hypertension, myocardial infraction, impotence and even premature aging.
It would be of paramount importance not only to examine the impact of work- related stress on health but also to delineate its causes and devise proper management strategies. In most cases, employees generally agree that work is a major source of stress in everyday life. This is vividly outlined in comments like ‘I had a very busy day’ or ‘had a stressful day with my client’ or ‘my boss does never understand’.
As noted in an earlier article published by Bupa’s Health Information Team in the context of Health and Safety Executive Survey (Greiner et al., 1998), one out of six working individuals in the UK report that their job is very or extremely stressful. Work-related stress is also one of the commonest reasons for sick leave (Bupa, 2008).Some of the causes associated with stress include vulnerable and miserable working conditions, prolonged working periods, disturbed colleagues relationships, diminished job security, transport and commute difficulties, company management and low salaries and wages (Greiner et al., 1998). There are employees who feel under worked or overworked or feel that their job description does not match their qualifications, for example, when one is supposed to serve as an accountant but assigned as the front office manager or receptionist. In these cases, work does not provide satisfaction to the employee. In rare cases, people report a particular cause of work-related stress.
Work-related stress may arise due to sudden, unexpected pressure or in the context of a set of stressful factors that progressively develop.As mentioned earlier, pressure is inevitable at the work place. In strict sense, no work without pressure is feasible, therefore employees need to develop appropriate coping skills, to deal with stress successfully. The negative aspects of work-related stress need to be pruned in a number of ways. For example, every employer should display interest on how employees function at work, thus boosting their self-esteem and increasing their productivity. Good management of time is necessary, for example, when one is caught up in traffic and cannot get to work in time, an effective strategy would be to leave home earlier. If one is faced with many deadlines and tasks to perform, it would be extremely useful to prioritize them according to importance and urgency (Cornforth, 2007). Through team work, one can delegate some of the work to other colleagues.
Break and relaxation is also highly recommended. There are employees who want to do many tasks in parallel, instead of doing one task at a time. Managers should create a good working environment, where each employee can feel comfortable and accepted (Foss, 1998). Organizations should at least, have a health and safety officer who can ensure that proper mechanisms have been implemented to safeguard workers from manageable causes of work-related stress.
ConclusionWork-related stress is a phenomenon that will continue to affecting employees’ lives. We have emphasized the associations between working conditions and stress. It is clear that we cannot eradicate it from our reality as workers, and for this reason I strongly underline the need to develop effective coping skills. Government and state authorities should implement measures that address basic workers’ needs and rights, to protect them from health risks due to work-related stress. Any employer or organization who deliberately fails to provide a comfortable working environment should be considered to commit an offense.
In addition, a specific policy should be established to compensate working personnel for physical and psychological suffering due to work-related stress.