In the most general sense, workplace stress is a mismatch between the demands made of an employee and that employee's ability to carry out those demands. In other words, workplace stress is at its peak when job demands are highest and the employee's actual (or perceived) ability to carry out those demands are at their low point.Workplace stress can occur under a variety of different conditions: you could be facing conflicting job demands, you might feel like you're suddenly faced with too much responsibility, or you might have some lingering doubts about your exact (or changing) professional role at your organization.
Strategies for Reducing Workplace Stress
Taking a big-picture perspective, stress is more broadly defined as pressure or tension produced from demanding circumstances. Imagine a case manager or senior caregiver asked to work longer hours in a given week or expand her skill set in a short amount of time.
Take Scheduling and Your Work-life Balance Seriously
Workplace stress can be an awful feeling. You feel like everything is spinning out of control and that there isn't anything you can possibly do to make a difference.
Contrary to what you might be feeling in the moment, creating a more balanced schedule for yourself and taking regular breaks during your workday can mean less racing around the office and a more balanced, far less stressful workday.
Creating a better work-life balance can make your relationships and support systems stronger outside of work and your workday much more fulfilling and efficient. Set boundaries for yourself, avoid overcommitment, and plan for downtimes throughout the day to recharge. Don't feel guilty about taking a break!
Practical Tips to Feel Less Overwhelmed
The experience of feeling overwhelmed is frequently associated with workplace stress. Consider incorporating a few of these task management tips throughout your day-to-day to get a better handle on workplace challenges.
At the very least, break down complex tasks into more manageable chunks, delegate tasks, collaborate with your coworkers, and ask your supervisor if you're unclear about something.
Signs of Workplace Stress You Shouldn't Ignore
Being on call around the clock, conflict-resolution issues, or feeling like you don't have enough autonomy in decision making can understandably produce some tension. But what are the signs that tension or challenges are worsening into workplace stress?
Warning signs of workplace stress to look out for are:
- Apathy about work assignments
- Problems concentrating
- Feeling anxious or depressed
- Physical issues (insomnia, headaches, etc.)
- Withdrawal from coworkers
As you'll notice from this list, workplace stress can have pretty serious emotional, social, and even physical effects if not dealt with.
Workplace Stress Could be Temporary
What's important to remember is that workplace stress can be temporary. Many industries, including healthcare and managed care organizations, are experiencing a bit of belt tightening right now, which could require employee cross-training in order to increase efficiency and tap into an organization's internal talents and resources.
Cross-training and broadening your professional skill set can mean more fulfilling challenges and better employment prospects down the road. In the short term though, you could be talking about workplace stress and a potential adjustment period.
Workplace stress shouldn't be ignored, but make sure that you're not confusing it for "good" stress and the pressure associated with workplace challenges, growth, and success.