Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Workplace As a Source of Stress

In order to understand how to deal with stress, we need to know how it works as well as how we physically respond to stress. Obviously it is equally important that body and mind respond to stress as a unit. Our mental response, specifically our cognitive perceptions, must work with our body when stress comes.
How we regard troublesome events will influence whether we feel stress much more than the events themselves warrant. Regard them as catastrophic, and high anxiety and stress will kick in. In many instances our feelings of loss of control - of overwhelming pressure - contribute significantly to the negative effects. of stress.
Clearly, ours is not the only generation to struggle with workplace stress. However, many factors in today's workplace often raise the levels of stress to intolerable proportions. Of course, the stresses of life are not confined to the workplace. Stresses of modern life affect people, but workplace stress overlaps with the pressure fount in urban living. Similarly, the pressures resulting from job changes can be highly stressful. Although the U.S workforce may not be quite as mobile as our perceptions might indicate, there is probably less lifetime employment with the same company - from entry level to retirement - than ever before. Some changes are chosen, and others are forced. Changing technology, unstable economies, globalization, customers changing demands, terrorism and the other socio-cultural issues influencing the workplace, have compounded levels of stress in the workplace. Few would have predicted the drastic changes that have occurred in the work environment during this century, from the automobile engine that transports us to work to nuclear power to generate electricity. Today, accelerating technology has resulted in a new generation of computers every eighteen months. In the process of such change, stress increases. Even positive changes can be stressful. When I got my new laptop, a far more powerful than my previous one and had much more capabilities, I found myself spending many frustrating hours learning how to use the computer features and struggling with its advanced software.
At one point modern technology was considered to be the solution for workplace stress-now it's more commonly recognized as part of the problem. Rather than freeing employees by letting them do more in less time, hand-held devices, mobiles, car phones, beepers, and laptops have caused the office to follow them everywhere, adding to the workload. Steady overtime has become a key factor in job stress as "co prorate shrinkage" causes the workers who survive job cuts to carry heavier loads. According to workplace experts, employees are generally more cautious about hiring new employees because of the cost of such things as health benefits and training. They would prefer to work existing employees more than hiring new ones.
Declining real income, job changes, downsizing have often led to shrinking salaries More and more workers feel overworked and underpaid at the same time. Economists blame the decline on such factors as foreign job competition, technological changes, increased use of temporary help, and the massive downsizing in the defense sector. The result is far less real income for most workers, as salaries shrink and inflation climbs.
The trend in the 90s, the trend to have more part-time workers and fewer full-time employees, saves costs in employee benefits and allows employee levels to flex according to demands in the industry. Unfortunately, it creates major uncertainty for employees, some of whom cannot count on employers for such simple things as medical coverage and paid sick time. These days, companies employ temporaries at every level of work, from entry level to management.
If the workplace is the main source of stress, can we overcome stress by adapting or fighting it? Yes we can, if we consciously become aware that we need to develop a positive attitude towards stress. An in-depth understanding of sources of stress in the workplace serves as a foundation for a self developed plan to deal with stress in the workplace.

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