Many Australian workers experience workplace stress on some level, and there are things you can do to help manage it. If you’ve ever felt stressed, tense, or anxious because of your job ― you’re not alone. In fact, workplace stress has been steadily increasing over the past few decades, culminating in record levels of work-related stress since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Common causes of workplace stress
Stress is a natural human response to things that our minds perceive as threatening or challenging ― and it’s something that we all feel from time to time. After all, between personal relationships, responsibilities at work and home, and other life events, there are plenty of reasons for us to feel “stressed.”
Work-related stress is the stress that people feel because of their job or occupation, and it’s something that workers in any industry or field can experience. While different factors can contribute to stress in the workplace, a few of the more common reasons for work-related stress include:
• having responsibilities beyond your job role
• having too many responsibilities in your job role
• experiencing an increase in your regular workload
• experiencing situations you have no control over
• experiencing harassment or discrimination at work
What does burnout look like
Stress isn’t just an emotional response ― it can also cause physical symptoms. Some of the ways that stress can affect us physically include:
• recurring illnesses
• digestive issues
• changes in appetite
• sleep issues
• increased fatigue
• decreased libido
Prolonged stress can also lead to a number of health conditions. For example, burnout is a term that describes a state of mental and physical exhaustion caused by prolonged exposure to high levels of stress. Burnout can develop from a number of stressors, but it’s most commonly associated with high levels of occupational stress, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). If you’re experiencing burnout, you might notice signs and symptoms such as emotional exhaustion, increased anger and irritability, physical exhaustion, increased aches, pains, and illnesses, and withdrawal from your job or loved ones.
Managing workplace stress
Managing stress in the workplace may seem like just a task for employees, but the reality is that reducing work-related stress requires a comprehensive approach that involves both employees and their employers. In one small study from 2018, researchers explored the work stress prevention needs of roughly 15 employees and supervisors from different occupations. According to the study, some of the possible stress prevention measures included things like adequate staff, appropriate workload, frequent breaks, and open communication, among others. However, sometimes it’s not feasible for someone to wait for workplace changes to alleviate their work stress ― especially in industries that are more stress-prone, like healthcare and customer service. So, here are some potential tools you can use as an employee to help you manage your workplace stress:
• Mindfulness: Engaging in mindful activities like meditation can help reduce stress and job strain and improve overall well-being.
• Movement: Any type of exercise is beneficial for stress.
• Therapy: Therapy can help you learn different coping strategies to better manage your stress levels at work.
• Connection: If you’re feeling stressed or burned out at work, reach out to your colleagues or manager and let them know how it’s affecting you.