Occupational Stress

Statistics tell us that more people have migraine headaches on Sunday night and that the rate of heart attacks and heart attack-like symptoms are very high in the early hours of Mondays.. What does this tell us? Perhaps that people are dreading going to their job on Monday? Maybe. But there are other reasons for this as well. Two decades ago we saw changes happen in the workplace that we didn't anticipate. The trendy term used was downsizing. Less people to do the same amount of work. Executives lost their jobs daily. New types of employment finding agencies sprung up that specialized in higher level management job finding. There was confusion in the workplace and people began to feel uncertain about their jobs. Articles started to appear that indicated we will all have more than one job in our lifetime ? there would be no more job security ? even for those who were University educated.

Stress in the workplace has increased over the past couple of decades. Occupational Stress can be one of the most debilitating types of stress there is. Overworked Managers no longer have the time to acknowledge their employees in positive ways. Disrespect and rudeness are two of the big attitudinal problems in some businesses. There is a loss of connectedness with the workers. People feel isolated and unsupported in their work. Add to this the addition of the part time marginalized worker. Must be on call at the whim of the employer, only allowed to turn down so many shifts, no benefits and frequently lower wages. This means that these people do not know how much money they will have coming in each month ? they try to take on another part time job ? but the same thing holds true. Must be on call, only allowed to turn down so many shifts, etc.. You see the problem. It's an insecure way to live at best. This creates the stress of never being able to plan for anything. An acquaintance tells me she keeps her cell phone at arms reach when she is in the shower.

According to the Tenth Annual Attitudes in the American Workplace Poll done by Harris Interactive, workplace stress is definitely up. Some of their results would support this. 63% say that the job pressures interfere with their family or personal life and 60% say that the job is negatively affecting their physical and emotional well-being. Stress Management is a big problem: 52% say that they think that people in their workplaces need help in managing anger and stress, yet 55% say their company offers no training on how to manage anger or stress. 35% say they feel their co-workers are harder to get along with due to stress.

Granted this poll was done in the United States, but the same results could be obtained here. So, what can we do to help combat the stress in our own office. We can acknowledge one another and leave anonymous notes that are positive in content. "Thank you for being you ? you brighten my day", "You were really helpful ? thanks!" Or we could introduce some silliness and put some fun items on our desk. I have an Eeyore stuffy that talks and he never fails to elicit smiles and laughter. When I've had a frustrating day, Eeyore and I have a talk. Join a laughter club ande release those endorphins, serotonins and boost your immune system at the same time. If a laughter club isn't your thing, rent funny videos for home OR work. Create a joke book, or a humour box. Buy balloons and leave them anonymously on someone's desk. Put up funny or positive motivational quotes.

Many companies use fun as a motivator and mood stabilizer for their employees. Westjet Airlines is known for this and I am told that their employees just love going to work. The company holds parties for their employees and show their appreciation in many ways. Companies who make it fun to go to work get more out of their employees than those who don't.

If we could learn to treat each other with respect and appreciation at work, mix in a little fun, smile and thank each other, it just might help to ease the stress of our workdays. It would be the beginning of something good.

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Carole Fawcett lives in the beautiful Okanagan Valley in B.C. She is a Stress Management consultant and Laughter Therapist. She can be found at http://www.afunnybusiness.ca

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