Workplaces can be stressful places. According to the Australian government’s Job Outlook website, the average Australian works 41.3 hours per week and has to deal with around 105 emails per day. It’s no wonder that workers are reporting higher and higher levels of stress than ever before.
So, what are the most common workplace stressors? I have honed in on the 7 most common problems and how to deal with them.
1. Excessive noise
Most workplaces are very noisy. A recent UK study for Self-reported Work-related Illness estimated that 74 000 people employed in Great Britain were suffering from work-related hearing problems. The figures in Australia may be similar.
Better Health Victoria has put together a great resource page on how to monitor and reduce excessive noise in the workplace. From personal hearing protection to creating quiet areas, they have many practical ideas. Read their suggestions and guidelines here.
2. Demanding workmates
According to the Department of Commerce, “Bullying is an abuse of power that can operate at all levels in a workplace. It includes any unfavourable treatment, such as aggression, passive non-cooperation, ignoring the person or their work, refusing to renew a contract of employment, or dismissal.”
Finally, workplaces are starting to take workplace bullying more seriously and there are many options for people who may be feeling challenged at work because of interpersonal relationships. Check your company policy, speak to your manager or direct report, or speak to human resources.
3. Lack of privacy
There have been many reports in the media that say that open plan offices can lead to stress. According to the American Psychological Association, “Sometimes your work setting creates physical stress because of noise, lack of privacy, poor lighting, poor ventilation, poor temperature control or inadequate sanitary facilities.”
According to a study by German and Swiss researchers, “Workers (should) set aside a block of time each day when they are not to be disturbed. In order to minimize cognitive load, this period should last for a while — on the order of several hours. And if your co-workers still insist on calling to you across the cubicles, put in your ear buds and tune them out.”
4. Feeling time-poor
According to The Punch’s Peter Lewis, in Australia, “a startling 58% of workers agree with the statement ‘there are times when I feel the stress from juggling work and other responsibilities is impacting on my physical well-being’.” He believes, “Our problem is time, or the lack of it. We are so stretched and stressed that we just don’t have the time to keep our lives on track.”
One of the solutions to being time poor is to structure your work days with more discipline, to be more realistic about the time you have and to structure in relaxation and commuting time. There are ways to prioritise your daily activities so that you don’t feel so stressed. Here’s some ways to get ahead with just one hour per day.
“Whenever demands exceed abilities, stress is bound to follow. Multitasking is especially stressful when the tasks are important, as they often are on the job,” says David Meyer, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan. Not only is multitasking risky, it’s counterproductive.
Meyer and his colleagues published a report in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. The report seemed to show that juggling tasks could lead to stress and interferences with short term memory. Learning to focus, rather than multitask, can be part of the solution. Read the Mayo clinic’s tips here.
6. Email drain
“Poor email management can cost $2,100 to $4,100 per employee annually,” according to Atlassian’s time wasting infographic. They say, “Just because you are sitting at work, does not mean you are getting work done. You are in a state of near constant distraction.” Receiving, replying to and sending emails can take up to 38% of a worker’s day.
Send less email, mark as unread, establish a routine, stop unnecessary group-alls, be succinct with your language, and avoid inflammatory language. Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn has given a few great tips on how to manage your email so that it doesn’t manage you. Check out his tips here.
7. Excessive workload
According to a company of chartered UK psychologists at The Keil Centre, “Workload can be thought of as excessive if deadlines are often missed or quality of work is not what it should be, however, from a health and safety viewpoint, workload is excessive when it is causing, some sort of harm in terms of health or well-being problems for members of staff.”
There are ways to help yourself or your staff to get back on track with an excessive workload. Time management is often a factor and there are online tools that can help. The Keil Centre has put together a spreadsheet that can help employers identify excessive workload in their employees. This can help a company move back to a “desired state” where workloads are manageable.
How do you deal with workplace stress? What sort of stresses does your job give you? Tell me!