Stress at Work

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Impact of work-related stressors on employees’ psychological health

Mona Rafiq Marfani

Department of Business Administration
Iqra University, Karachi


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 (mental and physical). "25% of employees view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives." --Northwestern National Life. "75% of employees believe the worker has 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. Workplaces with excessive workload demands or conflicting expectations on behalf of employers and employees.

Workplace conditions that may lead to stress include:
The Design of Tasks
Conditions as heavy workloads, infrequent rest breaks, long work hours and shift-work; hectic and routine tasks that have little inherent meaning, do not utilize workers skills, and provide little sense of control.

Management Style
Lack of participation by workers in decision-making and poor communication in the organization.

Interpersonal Relationships
Poor social environment and lack of support or help from coworkers and supervisors can be real sources of stress.

Work Roles
Conflicting or uncertain job expectations and too much responsibility in which employees can feel caught in difficult, seemingly no-win, and ultimately stressful situations during the course of their work day.

Career Concerns
Rapid changes for which workers are unprepared, job insecurity situations in which employees have reasons to feel worried about the stability of their future with the firm/company/business--and lack of opportunity for growth, advancement, or promotion can contribute significantly to employee stress.

Environmental Conditions
Unpleasant or dangerous physical conditions such as crowding, noise, air pollution, or ergonomic problems are all examples of environmental conditions that can directly contribute to stress on the job.

Job Stress and Health
Stress sets off an alarm in the brain, which sets off a response of preparing the body for defensive action. The nervous system is then aroused and hormones are released to sharpen the senses, quicken the pulse and respiration, and tense the muscles. This response (sometimes called the fight or flight response) is important because it helps us defend against threatening situations. The response is biologically pre-programmed. Everyone responds in much the same way, regardless of whether the stressful situation is at work or home.

Short-lived or infrequent episodes of stress pose little risk. But when stressful situations go unresolved, the body is kept in a constant state of hyper-alert activation, which increases the rate of wear and tear to biological systems. Ultimately, fatigue or damage results, and the ability of the body to repair and defend itself can become seriously compromised. As a result, the risk of injury or illness (mental or physical, e.g., depression or high blood pressure) escalates. Some employers assume that stressful working conditions are a necessary evil and companies must turn up the pressure on workers and set aside health concerns to remain productive and profitable in today's economy. But current research findings challenge this belief. Studies show that stressful working conditions are actually associated with increased absenteeism, tardiness, and intentions by workers to quit their jobs--all of which have a negative effect on the bottom line objective of a thriving workplace. Because work itself can be both hazardous and beneficial to mental health and because most adults spend a lot of their life working,...
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