Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Work Days Lost Due to Stress

In 2003, the most recent data available, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 3,820 work days were lost due to anxiety, stress or neurotic disorders. According to Norma Malcolm of the BLS in Chicago, it's unclear just how accurate that figure is. One reason it's hard to track is that people aren't going to admit their problems to their employers.

According to the World Congress on Safety and Health at Work, employees who can't adapt to the stresses that come along with their jobs ar costly for business. The organization reports that more than 13 million workdays worldwide are lost each year from stress, anxiety, and depression. Among the main stressors include work overload, lack of recognition, poor relations with supervisors, low participation in decisions and poor communication.

Work-related stress is a very significant psychological issue for employees. One reason for the increased stress is the job insecurity that employees feel due to the amount of turnover. The days of working for a company for 25-30 years and then retiring are over. Recent technology such as pagers, e-mail, and cell phones were supposed to help make life easier and save time, but instead it has people thinking they can accomplish more. Shift work, longer hours, and too many responsibilities are other factors that can cause anxiety in the workplace.

People should think about how well the job fits them. They should be aware of stress-related symptoms such as feeling overwhelmed, muscle tension, sleep disturbances, changes in appetite, changes in energy, and irritability and headaches. If a job is stressful, people should determine what time of the day they work best to do the more difficult or mundane tasks at that time. People need to have a sense of control in the workplace and they need to develop positive and healthy work relationships.

Outside of work, a healthy diet and consistent sleep schedule are critical to maintain balance. Employees also need to establish boundaries between their job and personal lives. People tend to give up their time with friends or do fewer social activities when they're stressed. By being social outside of work is what refreshes us and provides us with energy so that we're able to meet today's demands. She summarizes by saying that stress in moderate levels can be motivating, exciting and challenging, but people need to evaluate their situation to be aware if they're under too much stress.

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