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To be stressed or not to be stressed?


To be stressed or not to be stressed?

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EVERYONE FANTASISES ABOUT a nonchalant and unruffled life. However, most of us battle every day with the pressures and stress this world has to offer. These strains range from individual factors in our personal lives to constraints and uncomfortable environments in the workplace. An interconnectivity is also established when stress is created in trying to balance work and family responsibilities.

Take Susan, for instance, who has a full time 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job, four kids and university classes on evenings. Stress is woven into her daily routine when trying to give 100 per cent to each area of her life.

This year the International Labour Organisation (ILO) designated the theme for World Safety Day as Workplace Stress: A Collective Challenge.

Stress management is an important segment in a company’s commitment to occupational, health and safety. Ensuring that a depressurised environment is established and sustained is not only important to your employee’s health, but has a direct link to your overall productivity.

Stephen P. Robbins defines stress as “a dynamic condition in which an individual is confronted with an opportunity, constraint or demand related to what he or she desires and for which the outcome is perceived to be both uncertain and important”.

This definition identifies that stress can be deemed a motivator for some individuals, presenting them with opportunities to attain goals, and as a constraint for others.

Stress is often highlighted in a negative context but many employees thrive and excel under stressful circumstances – such as deadlines and targets. What is deemed a stressful situation by someone may be deemed a walk in the park by another.

In Barbados’ current economic condition job uncertainty is ironically a certainty. Due to unfavourable conditions, many companies have resorted to downsizing, layoffs and mergers to wade the waters of survival.

This factor has become the major stressor for employees in today’s society. The battle of sanity rages in their minds with the reality that their position within a company can become redundant in a split second.

The overextension of financial resources for personal enhancement such as loans and houses can be added pressure and stress when the means of income is being diminished or extinguished.

Using Susan as the resident example, the loss of her job would incur many consequences for her way of life. Her everyday expenses, including her university fees and children’s maintenance, would be in jeopardy and added burden to her already hectic life.

Job uncertainty produces anxiety, depression and irritability in employees because they are consumed with helplessness and the feeling of being a prey in a potential trap waiting to be devoured.

Role expansion broadens the meaning of multitasking, causing employees to feel overworked and abused. Instances of job dissatisfaction and frustration occur when no incentives or benefits are given for the increased workload.

Additional deadlines and targets cause employees to feel stressed and pressured because of the added responsibility and no compensation or consideration for their well-being.

The object and main priority of any organisation is productivity and profitability. Employers expect maximum productivity and returns on their investments, which require employees to commit and excel in their delegated areas.

However, overly ambitious employers sometimes establish unattainable goals for employees, thereby creating a stressful and hostile environment.

Deadlines and targets are created on short notice and expected to be completed in a short time span. Employees feel the obligation to complete these tasks without objections or queries due to the fear of victimisation or reprimand.

A hostile environment can also be created when there is miscommunication or a lack of communication in the chain of command. This is an environment for disaster where employees are receiving multiple directions to achieve the same goal. These disparities can also be seen in department rivalries where individuals deem their input more valuable than others.

Individuals coping with stress in these situations experience physiological, psychological and behavioural symptoms.

High levels of stress can result in ulcers, irritability, high blood pressure, weight loss and, in some extreme cases, suicide.

According to the American Heart Association, when faced with stressful situations our body releases stress hormones which cause our hearts to race and constrict blood vessels. They suggest clearing mental clutter to lower high blood pressure to overcome stressful situations.

The health of employees is of great concern to organisations because poor health translates into absenteeism. Stressed employees require extensive leaves of absence due to the inability to cope in the work environment. 

It’s in the organisation’s best interest to ensure that they create an environment conducive to productivity with low stress levels. In this economic climate it is impractical to guarantee human resource sustainability, but it is also important to reassure employees of their value and their importance to the company’s success.

Here are some recommendations to aid in this process: team-building exercises, incentives (performance or attendance incentives, outstanding achievements), on-site amenities (gym, day care, exercise classes), and wellness programmes. 

Employees operate at their full capacity when they feel comfortable in their environment. Stress poses adverse effects to an employee’s health and the company’s productivity level.

Remember, a healthy and happy employee fosters a successful and profitable business. World Safety Day is being observed on April 27! We implore all employers and the general public to remain cognizant of the importance of occupational safety, health and wellness as the Barbados Employers’ Confederation promulgates decent work!

Aleika Walker is a business development officer.

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