Three out of every four American workers describe their work as stressful. According to the Holmes-Rahe Life Events Scale, which rates levels of stress, many of the most stressful events in life are related to the workplace. Some examples are firings, business readjustments and changes in financial status, altered responsibilities, a switch to a different line of work, trouble with the boss, changes in work hours or conditions, retirement and vacations. Workplace stress costs American employers an estimated $200 billion per year in lower productivity, absenteeism, staff turnover, workers' compensation, medical insurance and other stress-related expenses. However, stress may not always be a bad thing. It can stimulate creativity and productivity. The natural pattern of human behavior is to experience a stress-causing event or situation, react to it with increased tension and then return to a normal, relaxed state. The problem occurs when stress is so overwhelming or constant that this pattern is broken. This overwhelming feeling is usually caused by some lack of communication. Everyone has a breaking point and the fact that some people may be able to handle certain job types more than others does not excuse employers from having a duty to the health and welfare of their employees. An article that was written by Bill Wilkerson, CEO of Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Addiction and Mental Health, conducted a survey to find the top ten workplace stressors. In a report submitted to the Industrial Accident Prevention Association, Wilkerson listed the following ten reasons for workplace stress and after each one is an brief explanation of how better communication could remedy the situation. "The treadmill syndrome" - employees have too much or too little to do. Some have too many responsibilities and work around the clock, even when away from the workplace. Others fill their days with unproductive busy-work, feeling the stress of knowing they could be more productive. These are caused respectively by two different reasons. An employee with too much work may be afraid to tell his/her boss because they are afraid their boss may consider them incompetent. Too little work may be the result of an employee that doesn't speak up because he/she doesn't want to become overwhelmed. Either situation could be resolved by better communication. First, the overworked guy should explain to his boss that he may need more time to complete his tasks or fewer tasks. Secondly, the person with too little to do should realize that sooner or later someone is going to notice that they are not doing their job and explain to his boss that he would like to be more challenged. "Random interruptions" - telephones, walk-in visits, demands from supervisors. Goal setting and time management strategies can increase productivity and alleviate the stressfulness of incomplete projects. Communication isn't just talking to someone, it is other things such as pushing the do not disturb button on a phone or closing the door in your office. These are both ways of communicating that you cannot be disturbed. "Pervasive uncertainty" Hidden company problems, unsatisfactorily explained and announced change and/or economic fluctuations all affect stress levels and productivity. This is an intentional lack of communication or what more commonly know as covering up a bad situation. Sometimes this may be unavoidable. "Mistrust, unfairness, and vicious office politics" - Keep everyone on edge and uncertain about the future. Poor morale increases stress levels and consumes energy that could otherwise be directed at job related activities. There is no real lack of communication here, just bad policy. "Unclear policies and no sense of direction in the company" - Undermines confidence in management. Communication of policies is the first step. Management must then keep these policies updated and follow through to insure compliance throughout the ranks....
References: Braham, Barbara J. Calm Down: How to Manage Stress at Work. Glenview: Scott, Foresman & Co., 1990.
"Stress - America 's #1 Health Problem." http://www.stress.org/problem.htm.
The American Institute of Stress - http://www.stress.org/
Job Stress Help - http://www.jobstresshelp.com/
Center for Anxiety and Stress Treatment - http://stressrelease.com/
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