The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines stress as: The adverse reaction people have to excess pressure..It isn't a disease. But if stress is intense and goes on for some time, it can lead to a mental and physical ill health like depression, nervous breakdown and heart disease.
Despite all the business speak, people get seriously vague when it comes to definitions and raises question: What is stress? Is it a new name for an old fashioned condition such as unhappiness or overwork, or is it peculiar to our uniquely pressured times? There is something in the idea that stress isn't just about hard work or unhappiness, but about conflict, confusion and frustration. It's about the anxiety generated by multi-tasking and balancing priorities, meeting contradictory demands, about knowing where to start and papering over the cracks when you want to do much.
An increasing number of survey reports, perceived or actual, increases in levels of stress. There have also been a number of highly publicised reports of successful legal claims based on the effects of stress. Understandably, however, there is also a level of scepticism about the amount of emphasis placed on stress, and a number of press and other articles feature the "myth" of work stress.
An interestting report from the Institute for Social and Economic Research suggests that claims of workplace pressure may be misplaced. Levels of jobs and mental distress vary systematically according to the day of the week on which respondents are interviewed. It tended to be because employees were working too few or too many hours. Stress appear on Friday and Saturday.When genuine dissatisfaction was found, it tended to be because employees were working too few or too many hours.However , the main cause of stress was money difficulties; caused by unemployment or debt. The research casts a question mark over the generous compensation regularly handed out by the course to employees claiming they suffer from stress.
Stress, however, is very personal experience, as is the response of each individual to it and their belief. Questions about the prevalent view among managers in Asia which seems to be that stress at work is something to be avoided after all. Although stress appears to have become public health enemy number one and is viewed as the culprit of myriad complaints, the term is badied about far too readily and there is a need to stand back and attempt to get things into some sort of perspective. A measure of stress is natural. A degree of stress at work is no unhealthy thing and without it nothing would ever get done. However, it is important to bear in mind that stress can potentially be very harmful.
A certain amount of stress may arguably not necessarily be seen as a bad thing and may even help promote a higher level of performance. But what is the distinction between pressure and stress? "Pressure can be sen as a positive factor that may be harnessed to help people respond to a challenge and function more effectively. " Stress" may be regarded as a continuous negative response arising from extreme pressure of other demands and the individual's inability to cope.
Personal performance may improve with pressure, up to a certain point.Beyond that point, continuous pressure leads to a fail in performance as the person is no longer to cope. Signs of this are fatigue, poor judgment and bad decision making . In turn, this can lead to serious business problems.
Research by organization such as the Health and Safety executive have identified stress, anxiety and depression as among the most commonly the most reported illnesses, and wider research has also indicated that stress, brought about through work intensification and conflictss between home and work, is related to the risks of disease and ill health.
"The result of unrelieved stress on the individual and on business are worrying. The result may be higher accident rates, sickness absence, inefficiency, damaged relationships with clients and colleagues, high staff turnover, early retirement on medical grounds, and even premature death... The cost of stress is huge. It is devastating to the individual and damaging to the business at a time when the need to control business costs and ensure an effective and healthy workforce is greater than ever. It is everyone's interest to tackle the taboo on talking about emotional problems because it is this which inhibits from seeking help".
Coping with stress
There are a number of measures by which individuals and organizations can attempt to reduce the causes and effects of stress. There are also many suggested techniques to help individual's bring stress under control- for example, changing your viewpoint , identifying causes of distress, laughing and telling jokes, working on stress reduction and appreciating that some stress can be useful. However, there are not always easy remedies for stress and much depends upon the personality of the individual. Techniques such as relaxation therapy may help some people, although not others, but still tend to address the symptoms rather than the cause.
Stress inducing hazards are hard to pin down, much less eliminate. It is important to know how people feel about the things that cause them stress as well as which "stressor" are most common in a particular industry and occupation. Human resource policy should include several stress management building blocks within the organization structure including management education, employee education, counselling and support, critical incident briefing, and good sound management. Organizations also need to give greater attention to training, support and counselling and to the work organization and job design.
Effective communications at all levels of the organization are clearly important in helping to reduce or overcome the level of stress. However, in addition to good communications. The ability to hold good quality conversations is becoming a core organizational and individual skills. Unlike communication, conversation are intrinsically creative and roam freely across personal issues, corporate gossip and work projects. "Conversations are a defense against stress and other mental health problems. People with good social relationships at work are much less likely to be stressed or anxious".
A growing number of organizations are introducing an e-mail, facebook, twitter or social networking- free day to encourage staff to use the telephone or walk across the corridors to talk more with one another.