How to prevent and relieve workplace stress Featured

7:00pm EDT November 25, 2010

Stress is a normal occurrence in everyday life and can be caused by many factors. A few of these factors include life events such as illness, the death of a loved one, a change in responsibilities or expectations at work and, lastly, financial challenges.

Stress in the workplace has been a growing concern for years, and there is no doubt that widespread layoffs, budget cuts and investment losses due to the recent economic crisis have only contributed to the problem.

When a person encounters a stressful situation and they don’t have a plan to counter the effect, this can be damaging to their health and well-being. In response to stress, human bodies automatically increase blood pressure, heart rate, metabolism and blood flow to the muscles. The long-term effects of stress can be attributed to a list of medical conditions that include heart disease, depression and obesity.

“Ignoring the many signs that your body gives you can lead to total failure of systems,” says Keith Kartman, a senior sales executive for JRG Advisors, the management company for ChamberChoice.

Smart Business spoke with Kartman about workplace stress, the signs of it and what both employers and employees can do to prevent it.

What are some signs of stress?

Everyone experiences stress differently, therefore it is very important to understand the early signs of stress. And, it’s important to learn how to recognize when your stress levels are out of control. Stress affects the mind, the body and behavior in many ways.

The signs of workplace stress vary from person to person, depending on the given situation, how long the individual has been subjected to the stressors and the intensity of the stress itself. Signs of workplace stress may include absenteeism, low morale, negativism, alienation, anxiety, apathy, boredom, depression, fatigue, frustration and irritability, not to mention physical problems, such as headaches, sleep disturbances, upset stomach, etc. While undergoing stress, we tend to pay less attention to rules and regulations. We tend to get so bogged down by the stressful situations that we develop a negative attitude that festers across situations. Accidents are common due to such attitudes and behaviors.

Stress has a way of creeping into our lives, sometimes without our even realizing it. Different individuals may react to stress in their own unique manner and it is important to understand the manner in which you respond to a stressful situation. Managing it begins with learning the signs and symptoms of stress.

As a business owner, there are considerations for both employers and employees to take into account when looking at stress levels.

What are the considerations for employers?

From an employer perspective, there are many factors to consider when researching the stress level of our workers. Job conditions that can lead to stress for employees include work roles, environmental conditions, management style and career concerns. The primary cause of job stress for employees is individuals’ responses and working conditions. Employers can take active roles in developing strategies for stress management and reduction.

Some of these programs include the following:

  • Establish an employee recognition program that rewards employees for good work performance.
  • Provide employees with opportunities for career development.
  • Promote a culture that values the individual worker.
  • Ensure management actions are consistent with the company core values.
  • Offer company benefits such as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and stress management training.
  • Always look for ways to improve working conditions.

What are the considerations for employees?

When overwhelming challenges turn our jobs into demands that can’t be met, injury and job failure become likely. From an employee perspective, there are also considerations that should be taken into account.

Tips for reducing stress are as follows:

  • Try to maintain balance between your personal life and work. Be relaxed. Develop and become engaged in a supportive network of family members, friends and coworkers. Try to have a positive outlook.
  • Look for and identify the stressors in your work day. Look for ways to make positive changes that can help minimize the amount of stress associated with your job.
  • Misunderstandings and communications problem remain one of the most common sources of workplace stress. Develop a conflict resolution plan for yourself to help guide you in these particular situations.

Managing stress can help you have less pain and feel healthier. Learn to identify those situations you can do something about and those that you can’t. Remember, no one is perfect. Work at reducing stress by communicating better, managing your time, conserving energy and setting goals. Avoid drugs and alcohol and seek support, education and professional help for serious problems.

In conclusion, stress is a normal part of life. By understanding yourself and your reactions to stressful events, you can learn how to effectively manage stress.

Keith Kartman is a senior sales executive for JRG Advisors, the management company for ChamberChoice. Reach him at (412) 456-7010 or